Objective: To describe the evolution of pancreas transplantation from 1979 to 2011. The aim was to examine factors influencing long-term patient and graft survival, surgical methods, and risk factors influencing organ performance after transplantation.
Background: Pancreas transplantation has become the therapy of choice for patients suffering insulin-dependent diabetes and end stage renal failure.
Methods: Retrospective analysis of 509 consecutive pancreas transplants (442 simultaneous pancreas and kidney [SPK], 20 pancreas transplanted alone [PTA], and 47 pancreas transplanted after kidney [PAK]), performed at the University Hospital Innsbruck. The data were statistically analyzed using the Kaplan-Meier method and log-rank test.
Results: After overcoming initial immunological and technical problems between 1979 and 1988 (5-year pancreas graft survival rate, 29.7%), pancreas transplantation evolved during the second decade (1989–1996; 5-year pancreas graft survival rate, 42.2%). Technical changes, optimized immunosuppression, careful pretransplant evaluation, and improved graft monitoring have become standard in the last decade and result in excellent 5-year patient (94.3%), kidney (89.4%), and pancreas (81.5%) graft survival. Five-year graft survival was superior in SPK (68.8%) compared with PAK (62.5%) and PTA (16.4%). SPK retransplantation can be carried out safely with 5-year patient (87.5%) and pancreas graft (75.0%) survival. Overall 5-year patient survival after loss of the first pancreas graft is significantly better in patients who underwent retransplantation (89.4% vs. 67.9%, P = 0.001). Long-term pancreas graft survival is independent of donor body mass index, sex, and cause of death, anastomosis time and the number of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) mismatches, recipient age, body mass index, sex, current panel reactive antibodies, and waiting time. Significant risk factors for reduced graft survival are cold ischemia time and donor age.
Conclusions: During the last 32 years, many problems in pancreas transplantation have been overcome and it may currently represent the therapeutic gold standard for some patients with diabetes and end stage renal failure.