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After Kidney and/or Pancreas Transplant Surgery

Dedicated to Success

Living with a transplanted organ takes dedication. Your care partner plays an important role in your success. A care partner is a family member or friend who will support you in the process of gaining strength and living healthfully after your transplant. During your hospitalization, we recommend your care partner be with you during daytime hours so that you both can receive the necessary information about your continued care.

After surgery, you will be is transferred to the surgical intermediate or intensive care unit. Gradually, you and your care partner will practice administering necessary medications under the close supervision of the transplant pharmacist, nephrologist, endocrinologist and surgeon. This prepares you to handle taking your medications properly at home.

The usual hospital stay is 4-5 days for a kidney transplant and 7 days for a combined kidney-pancreas transplant, but you could stay shorter or longer depending on how healthy you were before surgery, and how well your body is responding to the transplanted organ(s).

Practicing Good Care

Before being discharged, the transplant team will help you understand what you will need to do after transplantation. You will receive information on:

  • Follow-up clinic check-ups
  • When to call for emergencies
  • Lab work and other tests that will need to be regularly taken
  • Medications, how/when to take them, and observing for side-effects
  • Monitoring vital signs for indication of rejection or infection
  • Nutrition and foods that can aid your recovery, or hurt your recovery
  • Daily exercise routine to build strength and avoid muscle weakness, as well as activities to avoid.

We encourage you to get up and out of bed as soon as you can. Most transplant recipients can return to a normal or near-normal existence and participate in fairly vigorous physical exercise six to 12 months after successful surgery.

Preventing Rejection and Infection

Following your transplant surgery you will need to take immunosuppressive medications to help prevent and help treat rejection for life. These drugs decrease your body's resistance to your new kidney and/or pancreas, but may impair your ability to fight off infections. You will need to take medication to help prevent infections. You should also avoid contact with people with any infection that is contagious, especially during the first three to six months after your transplant.

Report the following to your doctor:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increased pain, excessive bleeding or discharge from the insertion site
  • Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or severe nausea or vomiting
  • Cough that produces a yellowish or greenish substance
  • Dry cough that continues for more than one week
  • Prolonged nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea 
  • Inability to take prescribed medication
  • Bruising 
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Red or rusty-brown urine
  • Rash or other skin changes
  • Pain, discharge or swelling at the site of the drainage tube
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pain, burning, urgency, frequency of urination or persistent bleeding in the urine
  • Exposure to mumps, measles, chicken pox or shingles 
  • Unusual weakness or light-headedness
  • Illness that requires emergency-room treatment or hospitalization

Diet and Nutrition

The recovery process can be enhanced by a proper diet. For transplant patients, a diet low in fat, sugar and salt will help control weight and blood sugar, limit fluid retention and control blood pressure. Our nutritional counseling program can help in developing a healthy food plan to meet your needs. For more information about nutritional counseling, please call 619-574-8612.

Contact your transplantation team:

  • Before having dental work done to see if antibiotics are necessary
  • Regarding travel to countries that require immunization for smallpox, measles, German measles, or any other vaccine containing a live virus, because transplant patients cannot receive these vaccines
  • To discuss any plans to become pregnant. Avoid pregnancy for at least one year after transplant surgery. 
  • To discuss possible risks related to birth control

How long does the transplant last?

The national statistics show that at one year after transplantation over 95 percent of kidney transplants and 85 percent of pancreas transplants are functioning. The results at the Center for Transplantation have consistently exceeded the national average, with transplant survival at 90 percent and patient survival near 100 percent. Kidneys from living donors last on average 14 years. Kidneys from deceased donors last on average 10 years. Pancreas transplants last an average of 8 to 10 years.  Patients with certain disease such as lupus or focal sclerosing glomerulosclerosis may be at risk of having that disease return in the new kidney. Patients with uncontrolled diabetes after transplant also run that risk. Patients with type 1 diabetes and a pancreas transplant can develop type 2 diabetes and require insulin injections even if they have a functioning transplant if they gain excessive weight after transplant. 

Patients with transplants are more likely to die from cardiac disease, neurologic disease, or malignancy unrelated to transplant than from the transplant itself. Taking care of yourself, including following recommendations on medications, diet and exercise after transplantation is the best way to live a long and healthy life for both you and your new organ. 

Long Term Kidney Transplant Clinic

UC San Diego Health System will continue to monitor you through the Long Term Kidney Transplant Clinic on an ongoing basis. The goal of the program is to increase both quality of life and life expectancy after a kidney or kidney-pancreas transplant and to provide the latest advancements in academic medicine to our community.

During weekly clinics, we offer personalized follow-up care, education, medication counseling and adjustment, and tests such as biopsies if indicated. We are on the lookout to diagnose and treat transplant-related complications, including infection, diabetes and malignancies.

Living Well, Finding Support

Organ transplantation is a complicated procedure. More than that, the underlying kidney disease or organ failure, and the care involved after transplantation is physically, emotionally, financially and every other way - challenging. The Center for Transplantation at UC San Diego Health System is acutely aware of this, and of the kinds of support that make transplantation successful. More and more people are long-term survivors following kidney, pancreas and kidney-pancreas transplantation.

Make an appointment or transfer a patient

  • 619-574-8612
  • 888-UCSD-KD3 (827-3533)

Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Specialists

UC San Diego Health System Links