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Pancreas Transplant

After your pancreas transplant

​​Where do I go after my surgery?

After your transplant surgery, you may go to the intensive care unit (ICU) or directly to an inpatient hospital unit.

You will be weak after your surgery, but you will slowly resume an active role in caring for yourself.

What can I do in the hospital after my surgery to help with my recovery?

To help you recover:

  • Follow the instructions of your healthcare team.
  • Ask for medicines when you are in pain.
  • Practice deep breathing and coughing techniques.
  • Change positions in bed and keep moving your arms and legs.
  • Work with the physiotherapist and occupational therapist to help regain your strength.

When will I be able to leave the hospital after my transplant?

You will leave the hospital when:

  • You have learned how to take your own medicines.
  • You are able to recognize the signs of infection and rejection.
  • You are physically stable.

What happens after I leave the hospital?

It is important to know that getting a transplant means a lifetime commitment to medical treatments.

Your transplanted pancreas may start making insulin right away and you may have stable blood glucose levels soon after transplant. Some people may need to take insulin for a time after surgery. Your transplant team will let you know how often and when to check your blood glucose levels.

After you leave the hospital:

  • Your transplant team will follow you closely. Your follow-up appointments and tests may take up a lot of time and you will need to take time off work. Make sure you have a way to get to and from your appointments.
  • You will need to visit the transplant clinic at least once or twice a week for the first month after your transplant. After that month, how often you visit the clinic depends on your medical needs. If you are unable to go to your clinic visit, call the Pancreas Transplant Program as soon as possible.
  • You will go for lab tests many times each week for the first month after your transplant. How often you need lab tests will go down over time. Having lab tests is how your transplant team knows if the transplant is working and if you are taking the right amount of medicines (called anti-rejection medicines) to prevent your body from rejecting the organ or organs.
  • You may need to attend physiotherapy and occupational therapy appointments.

To help with your recovery and overall health:

  • Eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. Your transplant dietitian can help you.
  • Exercise regularly. Follow the guidelines your therapists and doctors give you.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not smoke.
  • When travelling, always bring enough medicine.
  • When going out into the sunshine, wear a hat and sunscreen. Do not get a sunburn. The medicines needed to prevent rejection of your transplant increase the risk of skin cancer. Avoid tanning beds.
  • Take good care of your teeth. See a dentist regularly. Before any major work on your teeth or mouth, call your transplant team.
  • Sexual activity is allowed as long as it does not cause discomfort and you have talked with your transplant team.
  • You will need to keep seeing your family doctor, 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. Check with your transplant team before taking any over-the-counter vitamins or medicines.

Having these items at home can help you collect information that your healthcare team uses to watch your recovery and overall health:

  • Bathroom scale that measures in kilograms
  • Thermometer that measures in Celsius
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Notebook, app, or computer document to record your temperature, blood glucose, weight, and blood pressure

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

Anti-rejection medicines (also called immunosuppression medicines) prevent your immune system from destroying the transplanted organ or organs. You will need to take anti-rejection medicines every day, 1 to 2 times each day, for the rest of your life, as long as the transplant is working. Not taking these medicines as instructed, or missing doses, may lead to your transplant not working.

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

When you take anti-rejection medicines:

  • 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.
  • 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 the transplant team or your pharmacist to learn more about which drugs and foods to avoid.
  • Tell your pharmacist, dentist, and all other healthcare providers that you are taking these medicines.
  • Do not get pregnant or get someone pregnant while on anti-rejection medicines without first talking to a member of the transplant team.
  • Anti-rejection medicines can increase your risk of some types of cancer. For more information, talk to the transplant team.

There are other medicines you might need to take, too:

  • You will need medicines to protect your stomach from ulcers caused by other medicines.
  • You may need antibiotics to help protect you against infection.
  • You may be given a fluid pill for a while to help your body remove extra water.
  • You may need some medicines to keep up with essential nutrients like potassium, magnesium, or iron.

You are responsible for taking your medicines. You should talk to your doctor, pharmacist, inpatient nurse, or transplant coordinator to understand:

  • the name and reason for each medicine
  • when to take each medicine
  • how to take each medicine
  • side effects of each medicine
  • what to do if you forget to take a dose
  • when to order more medicine so it doesn’t run out

Your healthcare team will teach you about these medicines while you are in the hospital. While there, you may start giving them to yourself, with directions from the nurses. This will help you get used to the number of new medicines you will need to take at home by yourself.

What is rejection?

Rejection happens when the transplanted organ or organs are attacked by your own body.

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

It is very important to watch for any signs of rejection so that your doctor can treat it quickly. The signs may include:

  • fever
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • higher than normal blood glucose levels

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

Rejection can happen at any time.

How can I avoid getting sick after my transplant?

After your transplant, you have a higher chance of getting an infection.

Possible signs of infection include:

  • temperature greater than 37.5°C
  • sweating, chills, and shaking
  • pain
  • redness
  • swelling
  • change in colour, amount, and smell (odour) of your urine, stool, or mucus
  • shortness of breath
  • open sores that have drainage
  • burning when you pass urine (pee)

Call your transplant coordinator right away to report signs of infection.

If they are not available call Health Link at 811.

You may be given medicines for a period of time after your transplant to help prevent some of these infections.

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

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Current as of: June 27, 2023

Author: Transplant Services, Alberta Health Services