Somnuek Pisaipan, 47, a medical technician, is the first person in the country to undergo the surgery, which was performed in late October.
The pancreas transplant procedure has been available for more than 40 years but a scarcity of suitable pancreas donations has made it difficult to treat people with such effective medical technology.
The Organ Transplant Unit at Siriraj Hospital is the only centre in Thailand to offer pancreas transplants. The transplants are usually combined with kidney transplants for people with Type1 diabetes, which affects about 1.6 in 100,000 Thais, said Somchai Limsrichamrern, a member of the surgeon team which conducted the three-hour operation.
Yongyuth Sirivatanauksorn, head of hepato-pancreato-biliary and transplant surgery at the hospital, said an estimated 20,000 people worldwide have had pancreas transplants, mostly in the US and Europe.
Combined kidney and pancreas transplants remove the need for insulin injections and kidney dialysis, which are unstable and time consuming. They also help reduce problems of stroke and brain damage.
Mr Somnuek had a kidney transplant in 2007. "I am very lucky having had both kidney and pancreas transplants," he said. "Before [the operations] my life was a torture. Now my quality of life is much better. I can't thank [the doctor team] enough for the work they have done. I have a lot more energy after my operation, and it is brilliant not having to take insulin any more as I had to do before."
Mr Somnuek was diagnosed with Type1 diabetes when he was 20 and needed insulin injections two to four times every day. He suffered renal failure at 25 years, which required him to receive haemodialysis twice a week. Each treatment took three to four hours. He will still need to take medication for the rest of his life to ensure his body does not reject the new organ.
Dr Yongyuth said a pancreas transplant was more cost effective than insulin injections since patients would have a better quality of life and would be able to work as normal. A pancreas transplant costs about 300,000 baht. Medication costs 20,000 to 30,000 baht each month. Only patients under the civil service scheme are covered for a pancreas transplant, he said.