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Evolution of Pancreas Transplantation: Long-Term Results and Perspectives From a High-Volume Center

Öllinger, Robert MD; Margreiter, Christian MD; Bösmüller, Claudia MD; Weissenbacher, Annemarie MD; Frank, Florian; Schneeberger, Stefan MD; Mark, Walter; Margreiter, Raimund MD; Pratschke, Johann MD

doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e31827381a8
Original Articles From the ESA Proceedings

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.

We describe the development of pancreas transplantation during the last 32 years at the Medical University Innsbruck, focusing on long-term survival and changes leading to the present success of this therapy. The current excellent patient and graft survival is a consequence of better patient evaluation, tailored immunosuppression, anti-infective prophylaxis, and major surgical advances.

Department of Visceral, Transplant and Thoracic Surgery, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria.

Reprints: Robert Öllinger, MD, Anichstrasse 35, 6020 Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria. E-mail:

Disclosures: No funding has been received by the NIH, Welcome trust, HMI or any other institution. This is an academic study conducted within the Medical University of Innsbruck. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.