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Patients who have successfully undergone a pancreas transplant can live without the need for insulin administration or any other diabetes mellitus medication from the first day after hospital discharge. The transplanted pancreas will perform all the necessary functions for glucose control, such as the secretion of insulin or glucagon (pancreatic hormones that regulate blood sugar).
After the transplant, the patient will need to take medication to prevent or treat complications associated with a transplant. The main drugs that will need to be taken are:
Immunosuppressants: Immunosuppressive treatment is aimed at reducing the risk of rejection of the transplanted organ. A combination of three different drugs is used for this: prednisone, tacrolimus and mycophenolate.
The dose and duration of these medications may vary depending on the transplant progress, but they have to be taken indefinitely for most patients, as long as the transplanted organ functions.
Infection prevention: Immunosuppressive drugs lower the patient's defences to prevent rejection of the organs; however, this leads to an increased risk of infection. So, after the transplant, a combination of antibiotics and antivirals is given to the patient, which are taken for a limited period of time (weeks or months).
Because the transplanted pancreas works properly, blood sugar control is optimal without the need to inject insulin. Therefore, the person no longer needs to count the carbohydrates (or sugars) he consumes so rigorously, to prevent a significant drop or increase in blood sugar.
However, it is very important to maintain healthy habits over the years, in addition to attending follow-up visits with the medical team and taking the medication correctly. Eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, not smoking and doing physical exercise adapted to each person are a fundamental part of post-transplant care. All this helps the pancreas transplant recipient to maintain an adequate weight and reduce other cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.