BACKGROUND: For certain uremic diabetic patients, a sequential transplant of a kidney (usually from a living donor) followed by a cadaver pancreas has become an attractive alternative to a simultaneous transplant of both organs. The purpose of this study was to compare outcomes with simultaneous pancreas-kidney (SPK) versus pancreas after kidney (PAK) transplants to determine advantages and disadvantages of the two procedures. METHODS: Between January 1, 1994, and June 30, 2000, we performed 398 cadaver pancreas transplants at our center. Of these, 193 were SPK transplants and 205 were PAK transplants. We compared these two groups with regard to several endpoints, including patient and graft survival rates, surgical complications, acute rejection rates, waiting times, length of hospital stay, and quality of life. RESULTS: Overall, surgical complications were more common for SPK recipients. The total relaparotomy rate was 25.9% for SPK recipients versus 15.1% for PAK recipients (P = 0.006). Leaks, intraabdominal infections, and wound infections were all significantly more common in SPK recipients (P = 0.009, P = 0.05, and P = 0.01, respectively, versus PAK recipients). Short-term pancreas graft survival rates were similar between the two groups: at 1 year posttransplant, 78.0% for SPK recipients and 77.9% for PAK recipients (P = not significant). By 3 years, however, pancreas graft survival differed between the two groups (74.1% for SPK and 61.7% for PAK recipients), although this did not quite reach statistical significance (P = 0.15). This difference in graft survival seemed to be due to increased immunologic losses for PAK recipients: at 3 years posttransplant, the incidence of immunologic graft loss was 16.2% for PAK versus 5.2% for SPK recipients (P = 0.01). Kidney graft survival rates were, however, better for PAK recipients. At 3 years after their kidney transplant, kidney graft survival rates were 83.6% for SPK and 94.6% for PAK recipients (P = 0.001). The mean waiting time to receive the pancreas transplant was 244 days for SPK and 167 days for PAK recipients (P = 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: PAK transplants are a viable option for uremic diabetics. While long-term pancreas graft results are slightly inferior to SPK transplants, the advantages of PAK transplants include the possibility of a preemptive living donor kidney transplant, better long-term kidney graft survival, significantly decreased waiting times, and decreased surgical complication rates. Use of a living donor for the kidney transplant expands the donor pool. Improvements in immunosuppressive regimens will hopefully eliminate some of the difference in long-term pancreas graft survival between SPK and PAK transplants.
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