In October, for the first time in Thailand, doctors in Siriraj Hospital were successful with a pancreas transplant in a patient with type1 diabetes and kidney failure.
Dr Somchai Limsrichamrern, a surgeon who was part of the team, explained that the pancreas transplant was needed to control blood sugar levels.
"Many patients with type1 diabetes die at a young age after they develop complications such as chronic kidney failure, coronary heart disease and agerelated macular and neuro degeneration," he said.
The procedure was conducted on Somnuek Pisaiphan, a 47yearold physical therapist, who has been suffering from type1 diabetes for 25 years. "I've been given a new life," he told reporters.
Before the transplant, Somnuek needed to take insulin two to four times a day and suffered from kidney disease caused by diabetes. He had to receive dialysis treatment at least twice a week. In 2007, he underwent a kidney transplant, and though his body did not reject the organ, he still needed to take insulin to control his blood sugar.
The transplant took three hours and the patient was under observation at the hospital for 18 days. Somchai said that so far, the pancreas appeared to be working well at controlling blood sugar levels without any need for insulin.
Pancreas produces insulin, which helps keep blood sugar levels normal, and helps reduce complications caused by type1 diabetes in the long term. After the pancreas transplant, the patient will no longer have to take insulin, but will need immune suppressive drugs to prevent rejection response.
Generally, a pancreas transplant goes in conjunction with a kidney transplant. An organ transplant in Thailand normally costs about Bt300,000 and medication for the first three to six months costs between Bt20,000 and Bt30,000 per month. The first ever pancreas transplant was done in 1966 and so far, about 23,000 patients worldwide have undergone it, with 17,000 of them in the US alone.