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What is a Kidney Pancreas Transplant?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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During a kidney pancreas transplant, a malfunctioning kidney and pancreas, often damaged by type 1 diabetes, are removed and replaced with a healthy, donated kidney and pancreas. One deceased donor typically donates both organs but, in some cases, because the human body has two kidneys, the kidney may come from a live donor. The transplant surgery usually takes from five to seven hours and requires a stay of from eight to 12 days in the hospital. For a year following the kidney pancreas transplant, there is approximately an 80 percent chance that the patient will not need dialysis or insulin. There is about a 70 percent chance that this success will continue for an additional five years.

Kidney pancreas transplant surgery is performed under general anesthesia. First, a cut is made down the center of the lower abdomen to expose the internal organs. The donated kidney is then placed on the left side of the body and connected to the patient’s blood vessels, veins, and arteries. The kidney is also connected to a tube called the ureter, which allows urine to pass from the kidney to the bladder.

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During kidney pancreas transplant surgery, the donated pancreas is transplanted on the right side of the body. A pancreas transplant requires a short part of the donor’s duodenum, or small intestine, to be transplanted along with the pancreas. The donated pancreas is attached to the recipient’s blood vessels and the short part of the accompanying duodenum is attached to the recipient’s small intestine. The old kidney and pancreas are usually left inside the body, because this has been shown to lower post-operative death rates.

Following surgery, one of the greatest risks of a kidney pancreas transplant is tissue rejection. Anytime a foreign object is introduced into the body, there is a risk that the body will produce an immune response against that object. If an immune response occurs against a transplanted organ, the new organ may be damaged and cease to function. Symptoms of kidney and pancreas rejection are fever, infrequent urination, elevated blood glucose levels and soreness near the transplanted organs.

The chances of organ rejection following kidney pancreas transplant surgery can be reduced by using anti-rejection drugs. Anti-rejection drugs suppress the organ recipient's immune system, and weaken its immune response against the new organs, making them less vulnerable. Unfortunately, anti-rejection drugs hinder the immune response in the entire body, making the patient highly susceptible to general infections. Following surgery, the patient will need to avoid large crowds and sick people. Eventually, the dose of anti-rejection drugs will be lowered once the greatest risk of organ rejection has passed, and routine activity and contact with the public can be resumed.

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