Diabetic neuropathy after pancreas transplantation: determinants of recovery

Transplantation. 1997 Mar 27;63(6):830-8. doi: 10.1097/00007890-199703270-00007.


Although simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplantation (SPK) achieves normoglycemia and correction of uremia in type I diabetic patients with renal failure, little data are available on long-term outcome and clinical determinants of recovery of peripheral neuropathy. In this prospective study, 219 electrophysiological studies using a standardized protocol were performed before and up to 8 years after SPK in 44 patients. Nine control diabetic recipients with functioning kidney but nonfunctioning pancreas transplants were studied on 35 occasions. Patients were 38.5+/-7.9 years old (mean+/-SD) with pretransplant diabetes present for 25.2+/-7.6 years. Significant polyneuropathy (total nerve conduction scores [NCS] <-1.0) was present in 89% before transplantation, which correlated with body weight (r=0.628, P<0.001). Two distinct patterns of neurological recovery were observed after SPK. Conduction velocity (CV) improved in a biphasic pattern, with a rapid initial recovery followed by subsequent stabilization. In contrast, the recovery of nerve amplitude was monophasic, and continued to improve for up to 8 years. Initial improvement in NCS was primarily due to an increase in CV (P=0.002 vs. baseline), and was best in shorter and younger patients. Recovery of total NCS at 6 months after SPK, assessed by multivariate analysis, was least in obese recipients and when performed in patients who had started dialysis before SPK, and was associated with lower transplant kidney isotopic glomerular filtration rate and HLA mismatch (P<0.05 to 0.001). Subsequent improvement was associated with less severe initial neuropathy, smaller body weight, and longer duration of diabetes (P<0.01 to 0.001). Fasting hyperinsulinemia was associated with impairment of initial recovery and subsequent NCS after SPK, but was worse in the control group. Recovery of nerve action potential amplitudes was predicted by better initial amplitudes and HLA mismatch, lower body weight, and the use of nifedipine (P<0.05 to 0.001). Nifedipine was used for hypertension in 33% of SPK and was associated with better CV and amplitudes, particularly in the upper limbs, where there was less neuropathy. The use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors also appeared beneficial, but this was confined to the lower limbs. SPK resulted in a gradual, sustained, and late improvement in nerve action potential amplitudes, consistent with axonal regeneration and partial reversal of diabetic neuropathy. These data suggest that early transplantation of uremic diabetic patients before onset of severe neuropathy, minimizing obesity and optimizing renal transplant function, maximizes neurological recovery after SPK. Furthermore, the preliminary data support randomized clinical trials for evaluation of nifedipine and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors in diabetic neuropathy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / surgery*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / surgery*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / epidemiology*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Histocompatibility Testing
  • Humans
  • Hyperinsulinism
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / surgery*
  • Kidney Transplantation / physiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neural Conduction
  • Nifedipine / therapeutic use
  • Pancreas Transplantation / physiology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Time Factors


  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Nifedipine