Effects of pancreatic transplantation on diabetic neuropathy

N Engl J Med. 1990 Apr 12;322(15):1031-7. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199004123221503.


Reestablishment of the euglycemic state by successful transplantation of the pancreas might halt or reverse diabetic neuropathy. To test this possibility we evaluated neurologic function by clinical examination, nerve conduction studies, and autonomic-function tests in patients with insulin-dependent (Type I) diabetes mellitus before and after successful pancreatic transplantation. Sixty-one patients were studied before and 12 months after transplantation, 27 again after 24 months, and 11 again after 42 months. A control group of patients with Type I diabetes treated with insulin underwent the same studies at similar intervals--48 patients before and after 12 months had elapsed, 21 again after 24 months, and 12 again after 42 months. In the control group, neuropathy tended to worsen during the follow-up period. The scores on the clinical examination indicated increased impairment after 12 months. Composite indexes of the degree of abnormality found on neurophysiologic testing of the function of peripheral motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves indicated decreased autonomic function after 12 months. The examination score and the three index values worsened slightly but not significantly in the patients followed for 24 and 42 months. In contrast, in the patients who had received pancreatic transplants, the neuropathy tended to improve. There was significant improvement in the motor and sensory indexes 12 months after transplantation and in the sensory index 24 months after transplantation. The other measures improved slightly but not significantly at these times, as did all four measures in the patients studied 42 months after transplantation. We conclude that the progression of diabetic polyneuropathy may be halted through the restoration of a euglycemic state by successful pancreatic transplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / surgery
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Neural Conduction
  • Pancreas Transplantation*
  • Sensation