Spinal cord ischemia (SCI) is a rare but devastating condition that can occur in the perioperative period resulting in paraplegia. Although diabetes mellitus is a risk factor for SCI in other types of major surgery, SCI is not widely recognized in transplantation. The aim of this study was to quantify the risk of SCI in pancreatic transplantation.
All UK pancreas transplant units were surveyed between 2017 and 2018. The risk of SCI in pancreas transplantation was estimated using the number of radiologically confirmed cases relative to the number of pancreatic transplants from UK registry data during the same time period.
There have been 6 cases of SCI during pancreas transplantation since 2002. No aortic clamping occurred in any recipient. During or after surgery, all patients experienced episodes of hypotension (systolic blood pressure ≤ 90 mm Hg) before the onset of neurological symptoms. Epoprostenol, epidural anesthesia, and postoperative hemodialysis may have contributed to systemic hypotension. The mainstay of early treatment for SCI for all cases was blood pressure control.
Based on these findings, there is approximately a 1:440 risk of SCI in pancreas transplantation. Hypotension appears to be a prominent risk factor. Strategies for mitigating the risk of SCI are discussed, drawing on evidence from thoraco-abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery. The risk of long-term neurological deficit should be discussed with prospective pancreas recipients given the potential impact on posttransplant quality of life.