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What Is the Success Rate of a Pancreas Transplant?

More than 95% of people survive the first year after a pancreas transplant. More than 95% of people survive the first year after a pancreas transplant.

More than 95% of people survive the first year after a pancreas transplant. Organ rejection occurs in about 1% of the patients. The survival rate decreases to 92.5% at three years. The risk of death from the surgery itself is low and happens in less than one in 100 cases.

If the transplantation is successful, the recipients may have a stabilized blood sugar level without the need for external insulin shots. The complications of diabetes, such as nerve and vision issues, may also improve after transplantation.

The potential lifespan of the transplanted pancreas is unknown; however, at present, individuals are surviving for more than 16 years after transplantation.

The recipients with successful transplantation have a better quality of life with better psychosocial and career aspects, but these recipients won’t have the health and performance of a healthy individual. 

What is a pancreas transplant?

A pancreas transplant is a last resort treatment in patients with an established type 1 diabetes mellitus. It involves the replacement of an unhealthy pancreas with a healthy pancreas from a donor. A pancreas transplant helps in:

The pancreas is generally taken from a deceased donor; however, in selective cases, the pancreas will be taken from a living donor. There are four types of pancreas transplant:

  • Simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant: This type of transplant involves a simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant.
  • Pancreas-after-kidney transplant: Pancreas transplantation takes place after successful kidney transplantation.
  • Kidney after pancreas transplants: Kidney transplantation takes place after successful pancreas transplants.
  • Pancreas transplant alone: It is performed in patients with serious and complicated diabetes.

When should a pancreas transplant be avoided?

A pancreas transplant should be avoided in people with:

What to expect in a pancreas transplant?

Before the procedure:

  • The surgeon determines if a pancreas transplant is necessary for you.
  • You need to undergo specific tests as a part of the evaluation, which includes:
    • Blood tests or skin tests to check for infection
    • Heart tests such as electrocardiography, echocardiography, or cardiac catheterization
    • Tissue and blood typing to make sure that the body doesn’t reject the donated organs
    • Test to diagnose early cancer
  • You will be placed on a waiting list to receive a deceased donor pancreas.
  • Your name and blood test results will be placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing’s national list.
  • During the wait, follow these steps:
    • Follow a diet recommended by the doctor.
    • Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption.
    • Keep a check on your weight in a range recommended by the physician.
    • Take prescribed medicines.

During the procedure:

  • A pancreas transplant is generally performed under general anesthesia.
  • The surgeon makes an incision down the center of the abdomen.
  • Next, the surgeon places the donor pancreas on the lower right side of the abdomen attached to the nearby blood vessels. If the pancreas is taken from a deceased donor, then the surgeon removes the pancreas along with a small section of the small intestine. Whereas, if the pancreas is taken from a living donor, the surgeon takes a portion of the body and the tail of the pancreas.
  • The recipient’s existing pancreas usually remains in their body.

After the procedure:

  • You have to stay in the hospital for three to seven days.
  • You will need regular blood tests for one to two months.
  • You may need to take several medications post-transplant.

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