Your Hospital Stay
After your transplant surgery, you will spend time in the surgical intensive care unit (SICU) for close monitoring. Most people are transferred from the SICU to the transplant unit the day after surgery. Planning for your discharge from the hospital will begin almost as soon as you come out of surgery. Pancreas and kidney-pancreas transplant recipients typically go home within seven to 10 days after transplant.
Each day that you are in the hospital, the multidisciplinary Rush Pancreas Transplant Care Team will visit you, review your progress and reassess what medications you need.
On the day of your transplant, you will be started on a combination of medicines designed to prevent your body’s immune system from rejecting (attacking) your new organ(s). During your admission to the hospital, you will be given some intravenous (IV) medicines to rejection. At the same time, you also will be started on oral antirejection medications. You will take some combination of antirejection medicines for the rest of your life or as long as you have a functioning transplant.
Like all medicines, antirejection medications have side effects, which may include low blood count (anemia), gum overgrowth, high blood pressure, diabetes, nausea, diarrhea, tremors and elevated cholesterol. It may be possible to control or improve the effects. Talk with your transplant team about side effects you may be experiencing. No matter what the side effects, never stop taking your medications without discussing it with the transplant team.
Most people with diabetes and kidney disease take many kinds of medicine. After your transplant, you will continue with some of these medicines unchanged, take lower doses of others, and stop taking some of them altogether. You also probably will be prescribed one or two medications for a few months in order to prevent postsurgical infections.
Post-Hospitalization Follow-Up Care
After you are discharged from Rush, you will need to return to the transplant clinic on a regular basis for continued evaluation of your new organ(s), management of your antirejection medicines and routine postoperative wound care. Generally, these appointments will take place twice a week for the first one to two months after surgery, then become less frequent.
For as long as you have a working transplant, you will need to continue to receive follow-up health evaluations. Blood tests will be the primary screening tool to assess your kidney and pancreas function. At standard intervals and if there is suspicion of rejection, your doctor may perform a biopsy (tissue sample and analysis) of your transplanted organ(s). The biopsy helps determine if anything is wrong with the organ(s) and what treatments may be needed. Other tests and referrals to specialists will be made as needed based on your situation.
It is a good idea to have someone with you for the first week after discharge from the hospital should any unexpected difficulties arise. If you have needed assistance at home before your surgery, you probably still will need help. A member of the Rush Pancreas Transplant Care Team will assess your home care needs prior to your discharge from the hospital and help arrange a visiting nurse or physical or occupational therapy if you need it.
Working After Transplantation
Unless specifically told by a doctor not to work, most people are able to return to work within four to six weeks after the transplant, depending on the amount of physical exertion the job requires.