You'll usually need to stay in hospital for two to three weeks after a pancreas transplant.
Recovering in hospital
When you wake up after having a pancreas transplant, you will first be cared for in an intensive care unit (ICU) or a high dependency unit (HDU).
You'll usually be moved to a general transplant ward after 12 to 24 hours.
While in hospital, you'll be attached to various tubes, monitors and machines.
These may include:
- a machine that delivers painkillers through a tube into your body, controlled using a handheld device
- an oxygen mask
- tubes that provide nutrients and fluid into a vein, or a feeding tube that goes through your nose into your stomach
- tubes called drains that remove blood and other fluid from the operation site
- a tube in your bladder that allows you to urinate without going to the toilet (urinary catheter)
If you've also had a kidney transplant, you may need temporary dialysis, a treatment that replicates some of the kidney's functions.
You'll have regular follow-up appointments to monitor your progress after a pancreas transplant.
These will be quite frequent at first, but may eventually only be necessary once every few months.
During these appointments, you will have tests to check how well your pancreas and medication are working, and also check for any complications of a pancreas transplant.
You'll need to take several medications called immunosuppressants for the rest of your life after having a pancreas transplant.
Without these medicines, your body may recognise your new pancreas as foreign and attack it. This is known as rejection.
Immunosuppressants are powerful medications that can have a range of significant side effects, such as an increased chance of getting certain infections.
While the side effects may be troublesome, you should never stop taking your immunosuppressants without medical advice. If you do, it could lead to your pancreas being rejected.
Read more about immunosuppressant side effects.
Getting back to normal
You should eventually be able to return to most of your normal activities after a pancreas transplant, although this can take a while.
- You may need a few months off work.
- Your stitches will need to be taken out at around three weeks.
- You won't usually need to take insulin, restrict your diet and measure your blood sugar regularly any more.
- You can normally start gentle exercise from six weeks, as long as you feel fit enough.
- Light lifting is often possible after six weeks, but you shouldn't lift anything heavy, such as a shopping bag, for a few months.
- More vigorous activities, such as contact sports, may not be recommended – at least in the short-term – as they could damage your new pancreas.
Your care team will tell you about any activities you should avoid during your recovery, and can advise you about when it's safe to start them again.