U of M pancreatitis procedure reaches major milestone

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A procedure, created at the University of Minnesota, to help cure pancreatitis reached a major milestone within the university health system.

In September, the University of Minnesota health team performed its 700th Total Pancreatectomy and Islet Autotransplantation (TP-IAT), the most out of any health system in the world.

15-year-old Colton Krom from Colorado was the 700th TP-IAT patient. He flew to Minneapolis to have the procedure done after struggling for three years with pancreatitis, which is a rare, genetic disorder that occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed.

"Sometimes I'd think if this was ever going to end or not," said Colton.

The agonizing pain caused him to miss more than 100 days of school and spend most of his time in the hospital. He also developed diabetes from his condition.

"It was really constant, never went below a five on the pain scale," he said.

"We got to the point where we didn't go anywhere or do anything anymore because anytime we would plan anything, he would end up getting sick," said Natalie Krom, his mother.

His doctors in Colorado put him on painkillers, but didn't know what else to do. Then, his mother got a call from the University of Minnesota Medical Center. There was a doctor who could help.

"We were ready to take him any place in this world that would help him get his life back,” said Natalie.

"The pancreatitis was so severe and was significantly affecting his quality of life," said U of M Health transplant surgeon Srinath Chinnakotla.

Chinnakotla performed the 12-hour surgery on Colton. He removed the teen's pancreas. Due to the inflammation, it wasn't secreting insulin which is vital to body function. During the procedure, the cells from Colton's pancreas were processed and purified in a lab, then implanted in his liver.

"Colton will be pain-free and not only that he will be insulin-free, his diabetes will also go completely away," said Chinnakotla.

Colton can now eat pizza and play with his friends - a life his mother never imagined for her son a few years ago.

"Just seeing him being pain-free has been a miracle because I feel like he's missed out on the last three years of his life," she said.