Simultaneous Pancreas-Kidney Transplant

For many people, living with insulin-dependent diabetes is more than an inconvenience – it’s a life-changing issue involving a host of other complications. For some, these complications include kidney failure that dialysis and other treatment cannot correct.

A simultaneous pancreas-kidney (SPK) transplant may be an excellent option for individuals with insulin-dependent diabetes who also have advanced chronic kidney failure. In this procedure, expert surgeons at MUSC Health transplant a pancreas and a kidney at the same time. This lifesaving surgery allows people to live free of complications from both diabetes and kidney failure. 

Who Can Receive an SPK Transplant?

Unfortunately, not everyone with diabetes and kidney failure is a good candidate for this procedure. Transplant candidates must have a documented medical history of insulin-dependent diabetes. Most people who have an SPK transplant have type 1 diabetes that began in childhood.

Typically, transplant candidates have a history of other diabetes complications, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy, diabetic gastroparesis, and accelerated atherosclerosis. To be considered for an SPK transplant, you must also have advanced kidney failure for which other medical treatments are not effective.

Why Choose MUSC Health for SPK Transplant?

Thanks to the experience our health care providers bring, the Transplant Center at MUSC Health specializes in performing this complex surgical procedure. Each year, our team performs 15 to 20 SPK transplants, putting us in the top 10 percent nationwide for patient volume. At MUSC Health, you benefit from:

  • Surgical knowledge: Our transplant surgeons are board-certified and have completed additional training to provide the best results possible to patients receiving an SPK transplant. Many have completed fellowships at some of the most prestigious medical schools in the country.
  • Fast recovery: On average, patients who have an SPK transplant only stay in the hospital for five to seven days after their surgery.

SPK Transplant: What to Expect

Evaluation & Waiting List

The journey to transplant can seem overwhelming, but we’re with you from day one. First, your transplant team performs a thorough evaluation to determine your current health status. You’ll also need lab work and certain medical tests, like an EKG and a chest X-ray.

If an SPK transplant would be safe and effective for you, we’ll place you on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant waiting list. UNOS matches donor organs and recipients based on a number of factors, including blood type, medical urgency, and time spent on the waiting list.

The pancreas for your transplant will come from a deceased donor, but either a living donor or a deceased donor can provide the kidney. A living donor kidney typically functions better, and receiving a kidney from a living donor may reduce your waiting time. Learn more about our kidney Living Donor Program

Pancreas-Kidney Transplant Surgery & Recovery

Once we find a matching pancreas and kidney for you, you’ll undergo a surgery that typically takes around six hours. After your procedure, we’ll move you to our recovery area and then to our dedicated Organ Transplant Unit.

To improve your recovery experience and shorten your hospital stay, our transplant team has developed specific patient care protocols that help you reach recovery milestones faster. After discharge, your transplant team will provide ongoing follow-up care to ensure your new organs are functioning correctly and that no complications are developing.