About Kidney & Pancreas Transplantation


A kidney transplant is surgery to place a healthy kidney into a person with kidney failure. Kidney transplants are one of the most common transplant operations in the U.S. Whether it comes from a living related donor, a living unrelated donor, or a deceased donor, one donated kidney can replace the work previously done by your two kidneys.

Patients with diabetes may also have a pancreas transplant done at the same time. A pancreas transplant gives the patient a chance to become independent of insulin injections.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Kidney transplant. End-stage kidney disease occurs when the kidneys no longer remove wastes and excess fluids, and manage electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) and minerals. They also no longer make hormones that keep your bones strong and your blood healthy.

As a result, harmful wastes build up in your body. Your blood pressure may rise, and your body may hold on to excess fluid and not make enough red blood cells.

The most common cause of end-stage kidney disease in the U.S. is diabetes. However, there are many other causes of chronic renal failure and end-stage kidney disease.

Kidney/pancreas transplant. The pancreas makes a substance called insulin. Insulin moves glucose, which is sugar, from the blood into the muscles, fat, and liver cells, where it can be used as fuel. In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn't make enough, or sometimes any, insulin. This causes glucose to build up in the blood, resulting in high blood-sugar levels.

People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day, usually via injection under the skin. Because of the risks of pancreas transplantation, the surgery is rarely done alone. It is almost always done when someone with type 1 diabetes also needs a kidney transplant.

Preparing for Your Transplant Surgery

The transplant recipient and their family should educate themselves. Scott & White provides pamphlets and videos to patients, and encourages them to ask questions. 

An additional online resource is Transplantliving.org, which offers these tips for patients waiting for their transplant:

  • Take care of your health
  • Keep your scheduled appointments with your physicians
  • Participate in support groups
  • Follow the dietary and exercise guidelines
  • Occupy yourself by staying involved
  • Maintain contact with family and friends
  • Make sure you are available
  • Be prepared with transportation
  • Be prepared by packing your bags in advance.

What to Expect After Your Transplant Surgery

Recovery and Follow-up Care

After being discharged from the hospital, you will have weekly follow-up appointments with a clinic doctor for the first month. In addition, a series of lab tests, including blood tests, will be scheduled for twice a week. These tests enable us to closely monitor the your kidney function and detect any evidence of rejection as early as possible. The frequency of this testing and office visits will diminish over time as you stabilize and the risk of rejection decreases.

Your Responsibilities After Surgery

While transplantation can greatly improve your quality of life, it also demands much of you. You must become an active participant in preserving your health, including taking your medications.

For the rest of your life, you must also monitor your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Weight
  • Temperature

You must record those three items in a log book and bring this book with you each time you visit the transplant clinic.

Life After Kidney Transplant

Patients with successful kidney transplants can usually lead normal, active lives. However, transplant recipients do need to take special precautions, including reducing the risk of injury and infection.

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