Combined Kidney & Pancreas Transplantation

A Guide for Patients

We have prepared this guide to answer many of the questions patients have about combined kidney and pancreas transplant. Our care team wants you and your family to be thoroughly informed. If you would like to personally discuss any questions or concerns, you may call us at 951-275-9000. We will be glad to assist you.

Understanding Kidney & Pancreas Function

The kidneys are the body's filtering system, removing waste material from the blood and producing urine to eliminate those wastes from the body. These two hard working organs, located on either side of the spine, processmore than 2,500 pints of blood each day when functioning normally. The kidneys also play an important role in controlling blood pressure. Hormones stimulate the kidneys to maintain an adequate amount of water in the blood to assure that blood pressure stays within normal ranges.The pancreas, a fish-shaped organ, is located behind the stomach. The pancreas plays an important role in regulating body chemistry by releasing some of the enzymes used in the digestion of food as well as glucagen and insulin. Insulin helps control the body's use of carbohydrates and glucagen counters the actions of insulin to maintain the body's balance of blood sugar.

Treating Kidney & Pancreas Disease

There are many diseases and disorders that affect both kidney and pancreas functions. One of the most common diseases, diabetes mellitus, is caused by the failure of the pancreas to release enough insulin into the body. This disease can affect the ability of the kidneys to adequately filter the body's blood supply. While dialysis, a mechanical process to cleanse the blood, can effectively perform the kidney's filtering function, over time it can become a burden that affects the quality of life for patients and their families.

Combined kidney and pancreas transplant is an established treatment that has been very successful for patients with failure of the kidney and pancreas caused by diabetes mellitus. A successful combined kidney and pancreas transplant can mean a return to an independent productive lifestyle free of dialysis and administration of insulin.

Finding a Kidney and Pancreas Donor

Kidney and pancreas organs for transplant become available from individuals who have suddenly died. When a combined kidney and pancreas transplant surgery is performed, both of the transplanted organs come from the same donor.

The care team at Riverside Transplantation Institute assists patients in registering with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and coordinates the procurement of organs when they become available. The waiting time to obtain a kidney and pancreas for transplant from UNOS depends on several factors including the patient's blood type, the tissue match between patient and donor, and the length of time the patient has been on the UNOS waiting list.

Having Transplant Surgery

Once a kidney and pancreas become available that match the recipient's blood and tissue type, transplant surgery is usually scheduled within a few hours. For this reason, the care team at Riverside Transplantation Institute is on call 24 hours a day, every day. Patients waiting for combined kidney and pancreas transplant surgery are given pagers so that they can be contacted immediately when the organs become available.

Combined kidney and pancreas transplant surgery is performed in a surgical suite and post-operative care is provided in the specially designed transplant unit at Riverside Community Hospital. This unit is equipped with the latest technology to meet the unique needs of transplant patients from preoperative care, through surgery, to postoperative care.

Recuperating After Surgery

After transplant surgery, patients are cared for in the transplant unit at Riverside Community Hospital. The care team on the unit has advanced training in caring for transplant patients and the unit has been designed to meet the special needs of these patients. Most patients spend approximately 5-7 days in the hospital before returning home.

Combined kidney and pancreas transplant surgery requires a lower abdominal incision which may cause some postoperative discomfort. For the first 4-5 days following surgery, urine is eliminated from the body through a catheter. Normal bladder function is usually restored after these first few days. Patients usually begin eating a day or two after surgery.

Many patients experience normal function of the transplanted kidney immediately after surgery. For some patients, however, normalization of kidney function may be slower anddialysis may be needed for a period of time after surgery.

On-going Care & Support Services

Once patients are ready to return home, the care team evaluates individual needs and assists in making arrangements for at-home care. Patients are given individualized instructions for home care and are scheduled for follow-up care.

At Riverside Transplantation Institute, we work closely with patients' primary care and specialty care physicians to assure a coordinated continuum of care. Patients are referred back to their primary care physician following a postsurgical stabilization at 6-8 weeks. Patients may be referred back to Riverside Transplantation Institute at any time if a problem arises.

Several support groups for combined kidney and pancreas transplant patients and their families are offered free-of-charge. All of these groups are led by a licensed clinical social worker experienced in transplant and kidney disease. Individual counseling is also available.For more information about our support groups and individual counseling, please call (909) 684-1415.