Aims/hypothesis: The effects of successful pancreas transplant alone (PTA) on chronic complications of diabetes, in particular diabetic retinopathy, remain disputed. We prospectively studied the course of diabetic retinopathy in PTA recipients and in non-transplanted (non-PTA) type 1 diabetic patients.
Methods: The PTA and non-PTA groups consisted respectively of 33 (follow-up: 30 +/- 11 months) and 35 patients (follow-up: 28 +/- 10 months). Best corrected visual acuity, slit lamp examination, intraocular pressure measurement, ophthalmoscopy, retinal photographs, and in selected cases angiography were performed. Diabetic retinopathy and its improvement/deterioration were assessed according to criteria proposed by the Eurodiab Study.
Results: At baseline, 9% of PTA and 6% of non-PTA patients had no diabetic retinopathy, 24 and 29% had non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), whereas 67 and 66% had laser-treated and/or proliferative diabetic retinopathy (LT/PDR), respectively. No new case of diabetic retinopathy occurred in either group during follow-up. In the NPDR PTA group, 50% of patients improved by one grading, and 50% showed no change. In the LT/PDR PTA, stabilisation was observed in 86% of cases, whereas worsening of retinopathy occurred in 14% of patients. In the NPDR non-PTA group, diabetic retinopathy improved in 20% of patients, remained unchanged in 10%, and worsened in the remaining 70%. In the LT/PDR non-PTA group, retinopathy did not change in 43% and deteriorated in 57% of patients. Overall, the percentage of patients with improved or stabilised diabetic retinopathy was significantly higher in the PTA group. No differences were found between the two groups with regard to cataract lesions and intraocular pressure values.
Conclusions/interpretation: Despite a relatively short follow-up, our study shows that successful PTA can positively affect the course of diabetic retinopathy.