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KentuckyOne Health Blog

April 23, 2018

Life-changing Procedure for Chronic Pancreatitis

Richard Sutton knew something was wrong roughly four years ago after going to the hospital a third time for an acute attack of pancreatitis.

In total, he had four attacks within eight months. After the third attack, his doctor told him it was chronic pancreatitis.

Richard had been battling stomach problems his entire life, but with pancreatitis, the pain was excruciating. He could feel the pain in the upper left quadrant of his stomach and his upper left back. It was severe pain that immobilized him to the point that he couldn’t move and was doubled over. He would vomit anytime he tried to drink liquids.

His physician tried to place a stent in the pancreatic duct to relieve symptoms, but there was twisting in Richard’s pancreas and the bile wouldn’t drain. The stent only stayed in four-to-six weeks the first time and didn’t work. In February 2017, the doctor tried a second time, but his pancreas had so much calcification on it, the stent again wouldn’t work.

At this point, Richard was referred to the Pancreas Disease Center at Jewish Hospital and met Medical Director, Dr. Michael Hughes for help. That’s where he learned about total pancreatectomy with islet auto-transplantation procedure. During the summer of 2017, he received news he’d receive the surgery, where his pancreas would be removed and the insulin-producing islet cells would be isolated in a cleanroom facility, and then infused into his liver, helping reduce the severity of diabetes after removal of the pancreas.

While Richard is now a diabetic, he already had prediabetes before the surgery and was told in advance of the condition. It was also explained to him that without the procedure, he’d have to have his pancreas completely removed within two to three years.

After his September 2017 surgery, Richard recovered in the hospital for about a week, and was able to get back to his landscaping business in around four to five weeks. He didn’t have any complications, and the chronic pain from the pancreas was gone, although he still experienced some phantom pain from time to time. While he still has some pain from surgery, that is expected to be gone a year after surgery.

Richard is extremely thankful and has zero regrets about having this Auto Islet procedure. He calls it life-changing, and says it has improved the quality of his life drastically. As a 35-year old man with a wife and two children (ages 14 and 12), he is thankful to be leading a normal life again with his family.

The Pancreas Disease Center is part of Jewish Hospital Transplant Care. If you would like to learn more about organ donation, join us on Thursday, April 26 at the Kentucky Derby Festival Health Fair at 4th Street Live from 4 to 8 p.m. During the event, we’ll be providing information about organ donation, the Trager Transplant Center and ways you can help make a difference.