Recovery and Follow-Up

Recovery after pancreas transplant surgery

Hospital recovery for a pancreas transplant is usually 5-10 days if there are no complications. The length of stay depends on your medical condition and needs.

Immediately after surgery, you'll spend 24-48 hours in intensive care. You'll be in transplant care for the rest of your hospital stay. You may be able to get out of bed the day after surgery.

Before you go home, we'll give you information about your medications, lab tests and follow-up care.

You play an important role

You play a very important role in your recovery and the overall success of your new pancreas. Be sure to follow the instructions of your doctors. Keep lab and doctor appointments, and call your transplant coordinator if there are any problems.

Follow-up care

Your care continues after you leave the hospital. Your pancreas transplant team will continue to monitor your progress and answer any questions you have along the way. After discharge from the hospital, a post-transplant coordinator will be your primary contact for long-term follow-up care.

During the first year after your transplant, you'll see the pancreas transplant team weekly or every other week. As your condition stabilizes, you'll return to the care of your primary care doctor.

You'll visit your transplant team every year, close to the anniversary of your transplant. Your team will fully assess your progress and discuss any health concerns you may have.

Remember, your transplant team is always available. Don't hesitate to contact your transplant coordinator if you have questions or concerns.

First clinic appointment

Your first clinic appointment after the transplant is the most important. Note the date and time, and keep the clinic's phone number handy in case you need to speak with a transplant coordinator.

Laboratory tests

Each time you return to the transplant clinic for follow-up care, we'll test your blood to ensure your pancreas is functioning properly.

Medications

You'll take immunosuppression medications for the rest of your life to help prevent transplant rejection. You'll also have to be careful to avoid infections.

We'll help you learn the names of your medications, dosage amounts and times. Talk to your transplant coordinator or doctor about making any dosage changes. Not following your medication regimen can cause decreased function or loss of the organ. Report any side effects to your coordinator or doctor.

Minimizing steroid therapy

We are one of the few transplant programs in the U.S. to minimize steroid use for immunosuppression after patient discharge. Tapering off corticosteroids within four weeks after surgery reduces side effects, such as diabetes, weight gain, osteoporosis and bone fractures, and reduces patient morbidity.

Recovering at home

After you go home, relax and give yourself adequate time to recover. You won't be able to drive or lift objects weighing more than 10 pounds for two to four weeks. If you experience no complications, you may be able to resume light work activities in six to eight weeks. Your pancreas transplant nurse coordinator can answer questions about activities you can and can't do during recovery.

Life after your transplant

Follow these tips to keep your new pancreas healthy.

Keep your hands clean
Wash your hands before and after:

  • Eating
  • Touching foods
  • Touching soiled items or surfaces
  • Using the toilet

Encourage others around you to wash their hands, too.

Avoid prolonged sun exposure
Your medications may increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Always use sunblock rated SPF 20 or higher, and avoid lengthy exposure to the sun.

Take precautions when caring for pets
Do not handle pet waste with your bare hands. Wear gloves and a mask, and then wash your hands thoroughly. Your transplant coordinator will give you more information before you go home.

Limit your exposure to germs
Don't have large numbers of houseguests during the first six to eight weeks after surgery. Ask family members and friends who may have colds or infections to stay away. Keep preschool children at arm's length, especially if they are in daycare where other children may be sick or infected. Avoid eating from salad bars or buffets because they can harbor bacteria.

Limit your activities
Your body's immune system needs time to adjust to your medications. Pace yourself, rest often and avoid crowded places including church, theaters and malls.

Maintain your transplant
Follow the transplant team's instructions closely to help speed your recovery and ensure the best possible outcome.

  • Take your medications as prescribed – they are vital for a healthy transplant.
  • Keep all of your scheduled appointments.
  • Never hesitate to ask questions about your medications.

Signs of rejection
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your transplant coordinator.

  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Our transplant physicians can diagnose and treat rejection, infection and other complications of transplant and transplant medications.

Physician Spotlight


Edward Ellerbeck, MD

Clinical Focus
Adult Medicine

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