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 type 1 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 anti-rejection medications to suppress your immune system. You'll likely take these 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.
Signs and symptoms that your body might be rejecting your new pancreas include:
- Belly pain
- Excessive tenderness at the transplant site
- Increased blood glucose levels
- Decreased urine output
If you experience any of these symptoms, notify your transplant team immediately.
It's not unusual for pancreas transplant recipients to experience an acute rejection episode within the first few months after the procedure. If you do, you'll need to return to the hospital for treatment with intensive anti-rejection medications.
Pancreas transplant animation
In a pancreas transplant, the donor pancreas is attached to the small intestine with a portion of the donor's small intestine. Once the new donor pancreas is in place, it replaces the function of the diseases pancreas by releasing insulin and other enzymes into the gastrointestinal tract.
Pancreas transplant survival rates
According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, the overall survival rate at five years after pancreas transplant is about 91 percent.
Survival rates vary by procedure type and transplant center. The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients maintains current statistics regarding transplantation for all U.S. transplant centers.
Pancreas rejection rates tend to be slightly higher among pancreas-only transplant recipients. 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.