A pancreas transplant is a major operation. As with all types of surgery, there's a risk of complications.
Some complications can happen soon after the operation, while others may develop months, or even years, later.
Some of the main risks associated with a pancreas transplant are described below.
One of the most common complications of a pancreas transplant is rejection of the donor pancreas.
This is where the immune system recognises the transplanted pancreas as foreign and attacks it.
Rejection usually occurs in the days, weeks or months after the transplant, although it can sometimes happen years later.
Immunosuppressant medication can reduce the risk of this happening.
Symptoms of rejection include:
Contact a GP or your transplant team as soon as possible if you have these symptoms.
Rejection can usually be treated by increasing your dose of immunosuppressant medicine.
The immunosuppressant medicines you need to take to prevent rejection can have a number of significant side effects.
These can include:
Speak to your transplant team if you have any troublesome side effects.
Do not stop taking your medicine without getting medical advice first.
Immunosuppressant medicine will weaken your immune system and make you more likely to get an infection.
While taking the medicine, it's a good idea to:
Blood clots can sometimes form in the blood vessels that supply the new pancreas, which can stop it working properly.
The risk of this happening is highest in the days after the operation, so you'll be closely monitored in hospital to check for any signs of a blood clot.
You'll also be given blood-thinning medicine to reduce the chances of a clot forming.
If a blood clot does develop in the new pancreas, you'll usually need another operation to remove it.
Blood clots can also form in other blood vessels after surgery, such as those in your legs (deep vein thrombosis) or supplying your lungs (pulmonary embolism), but taking blood-thinning medicine should help prevent this.
Pancreatitis is swelling of the pancreas, and is common in the first few days after surgery.
It can happen as a result of storing the donor pancreas on ice in preparation for the transplant.
Symptoms of pancreatitis include:
Pancreatitis should pass within a few days. But sometimes tubes may need to be placed in your tummy to drain any excess fluid off the donor pancreas, and in a few cases it may be necessary to remove it.