Background: A pancreas transplant alone (PTA) in a nonuremic patient with brittle diabetes mellitus remains a rare procedure because the tradeoff for insulin independence is lifelong immunosuppression.
Methods: Herein we report our results at the University of Minnesota of 513 PTAs from December 17, 1966, through December 31, 2006. Of these recipients, 87% had previously experienced hypoglycemic unawareness and 23% experienced coma and/or seizures. These transplants spanned four immunosuppressive eras: pre-cyclosporine A (pre-CsA) era (16%), CsA era (23%), tacrolimus (TAC) era (47%), and calcineurin-inhibitor (CNI)-free era (14%).
Results: The overall patient survival rate at 1 year posttransplant was about 95%; at 5 years, it was 90%. The pancreas graft survival rate at 1 year increased significantly from the pre-CsA era (31%) to the TAC era (75%), thanks to a significant decline in immunologic and technical failures. The CNI-free protocol, because of its high infection and hematologic infection rate, did not further improve outcome. Risk factors for subsequent kidney failure (13% at 5 years posttransplant) were serum creatinine levels>1.5 mg/dl at the time of the pancreas transplant and recipient age<30 years.
Conclusions: A technically successful PTA is currently the only treatment option that allows nonuremic patients with brittle diabetes to become insulin-independent in the long term.