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Islet Transplant

After your islet transplant surgery

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​What happens in the hospital, right after my transplant?

After the transplant, you will go back to your room for the rest of your hospital stay.

You will need to lie on your right side for 4 hours. This puts pressure on the area where the needle went in and lowers your risk of bleeding. Your healthcare team will check your blood pressure, heart rate, and blood glucose often.

You will get a blood thinner medicine through your IV. Blood thinner medicine lowers your risk of a blood clot. Once this IV medicine is done, you will take a blood thinner injection for 7 days.

You will have an ultrasound the morning after your transplant and then again in 1 week to make sure that there is good blood flow to your liver. The ultrasound will also check for bleeding or any other problems.

Most people need to stay in the hospital for 1 to 4 days after an islet transplant.

What are the risks of an islet transplant?

There are risks associated with the islet transplant procedure. The risks include:

  • bleeding from your liver where the needle was inserted
  • a blood clot forming in the mai​n vein of your liver
  • damage to other body parts around your liver
  • infection from the needle or from the transplanted islet cells
  • pain or discomfort in your right shoulder or tummy (abdomen) that may last for several days – you will get medicine to help manage any pain
  • i​n rare cases, if your blood glucose levels drop to normal too quickly, it can cause bleeding in the back of your eye.

What happens after I leave the hospital?

It is important to know that getting an islet transplant means a lifetime commitment to medical treatments. You will need to take medicines every day and have regular clinic appointments, lab work, and tests.

Your support person will need to go to appointments with you and help you during this time. There is a lot to remember.

After you leave the hospital:

  • Keep following your diabetes diet. Your new islet cells need time to adjust. Changing your diet can overwork the new cells.
  • The transplant team will follow you closely after your transplant. Your follow-up appointments and tests may take up a lot of time and you may need to take time off work. Make sure you have a way to get to and from your appointments.
  • You will go for lab tests at least 2 times each week for the first month after your transplant. After 1 month, you may not need to have lab tests as often. Having lab tests is how your transplant team knows if the transplanted islet cells are working and if you are taking the right amount of medicines to prevent your body from rejecting them (anti-rejection medicines).
  • You will need to follow up with your transplant team at least once a week for the first month after your transplant. After that month, how often you follow up with your team depends on your medical needs.
  • It is important to test your blood glucose at home 7 times each day and to write down your results. The transplant team will let you know if and when you can start testing your blood glucose less often.
  • You will need to keep seeing your family doctor, diabetes specialist, and any other healthcare providers for your general healthcare needs.
  • Tell the transplant team if there are any changes in your medical condition or the medicines you take.

What kinds of medicine will I need to take after my transplant?

Anti-rejection medicines prevent your immune system from destroying the transplanted islet cells. You will need to take anti-rejection medicines every day, 1-2 times each day, for the rest of your life, as long as the transplanted islet cells are working. Not taking these medicines as instructed, or missing doses, may lead to your transplanted islet cells not working.

Never stop taking these medicines without talking to a member of the islet transplant team first.

When you take anti-rejection medicines:

  • Do not get pregnant or get someone pregnant while on anti-rejection medicines without first talking to a member of the transplant team.
  • You will need to get bloodwork done often to monitor your medicine levels. This lets the transplant team know if you are taking the right dose for you, and if any changes need to be made.
  • Tell your pharmacist, dentist, and all other healthcare providers that you are taking these medicines.
  • Many drugs and some foods will interact with your anti-rejection medicines; avoid these items such as: grapefruit, anti-inflammatory medicines (like ibuprofen or Advil), herbal supplements, and some antibiotics. Talk to your transplant team or your pharmacist to learn more about which drugs and foods to avoid.
  • Anti-rejection medicines can increase your risk of some types of cancer. For more information, talk to the transplant team.

What is rejection?

Rejection happens when the transplanted islet cells are destroyed by your own body. The only way to check for rejection of islet cells is to monitor changes in your blood glucose levels.

The best way to prevent rejection is to take medicines on time, take the prescribed dose, and collect lab work as scheduled.

If rejection happens, you will have an appointment with the transplant team to review your options.

How can I avoid getting sick after my transplant?

After your transplant, you have a higher chance of getting an infection. You may be given medicines, for a period of time after your transplant, to help prevent some of these infections.

Possible signs of infection include:

  • Temperature greater than 37.5oC
  • ​Sweating, chills and shaking
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Change in color, amount and odor of your urine, stool or mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Open sores that have drainage
  • Burning when you pass urine

Report signs of infection to your Transplant Coordinator right away during office hours or call 811 after hours for advice!

It is important to take steps to protect yourself from getting sick, like washing your hands and avoiding contact with people who are sick.​

Current as of: January 20, 2022

Author: Transplant Services, Alberta Health Services