After a successful pancreas transplant, your new pancreas will make the insulin your body needs, so you'll no longer need insulin therapy to treat diabetes. But even with the best possible match between you and the donor, your immune system will try to reject your new pancreas.

To avoid rejection, you'll need medications to suppress your immune system. You'll likely take these or similar drugs for the rest of your life. Because medications to suppress your immune system make your body more vulnerable to infection, your doctor may also prescribe antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal medications.

Pancreas transplant survival rates

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, transplanted pancreas and kidney survival rates include the following:

  • Simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant. In about 85 percent of people who receive a simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant, the transplanted pancreas is still functioning after one year. After five years, that rate is about 73 percent.
  • Pancreas-after-kidney transplant. In about 82 percent of people who receive a pancreas-after-kidney transplant, the transplanted pancreas is still functioning after one year. Five years after the transplant, the rate is about 65 percent.
  • Pancreas-only transplant. In about 76 percent of people who receive a pancreas-only transplant, the transplanted pancreas is still functioning after one year. After five years, that rate is about 53 percent.

It's unclear why results are better for those who receive a kidney and pancreas at the same time. But some research suggests it may be because it's more difficult to monitor and detect rejection of a pancreas alone versus a pancreas and a kidney.

If your new pancreas fails, you can resume insulin treatments and consider a second transplant. This decision will depend on your current health, your ability to withstand surgery and your expectations for maintaining a certain quality of life.

Jan. 27, 2015