What You Can Expect Before and After Pancreas Transplant Surgery at TGH
When a pancreas becomes available for your transplant surgery, the transplant donor coordinator at Tampa General Hospital will call your phone. These calls can come at any time – and they frequently occur at night – so you’ll want to keep your phone near you at all times. Also, please ensure that our coordinator has the phone numbers of your friends and family so we can always reach you.
When you receive the call, the donor coordinator will review your health status and help you prepare for being admitted to Tampa General Hospital. At this point, you will need to stop eating and drinking, and ask if you should stop taking your medications in preparation for your pancreas transplant surgery. Also, tell the nurse coordinator if you have recently taken insulin; you may receive further instructions if you have. Remember that you will need someone else to drive you to the hospital, and that you should bring along items that you’ll need during your stay, including your transplant handbook and your cell phone, as well as the name of your donor coordinator and the phone number for the hospital. When you arrive, check in at the admissions department; from there you will be guided to your room. We will complete blood tests and other pancreas transplant surgery preparations after you are admitted. Your family can remain with you until you go into the operating room, when they will be directed to a waiting area.
Pancreas transplant surgery generally takes about three to six hours, during which time the surgical coordinator and operating room staff will be available to keep your family informed. Once your surgery is complete, the surgeons will meet with your loved ones in the waiting room.
After your pancreas transplant surgery, you will be taken to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), where you will recover until you are stable and can breathe on your own. You might wake up slowly, and we will give you medicine to help control your pain and relax you. You will notice that there were several tubes placed in your body during surgery, including a breathing tube, a urinary tube to drain your bladder, and a nasogastric tube that keeps your stomach empty so you don’t feel nauseated. Several intravenous (IV) lines also will be present, and they are used to administer medicines, fluids, and transfusions, and to take blood samples and check fluid pressures in the body.
You will be moved to a private room in the transplant unit once you are stable and have had your breathing tube removed. Unless medical reasons bar it, you may have a family member stay in your room, but we ask that children under 12 do not visit the transplant unit due to the patients’ high risk for infection after transplant surgery. We can facilitate a visit with a young child in a waiting room of another unit or in the main lobby.
During the recovery period following your pancreas transplantation procedure, our staff will complete X-rays of your pancreas and/or kidney and perform daily blood tests, and you will be visited by your surgeons and health care teams every day. You will also work with your nurses and coordinator to learn about the medications that you will need and how to take care of yourself following your pancreas transplant surgery. Furthermore, you will learn how to track lab values, blood pressure readings, daily weights, and blood sugar levels – all of which should be recorded in a log that you will need to bring to follow-up clinic visits. Your support person will be learning alongside you; he or she will need to attend pharmacy education and nutrition classes with you before you are discharged.
In total, you can anticipate a seven-day stay at Tampa General Hospital following your pancreas transplant surgery, although you may need to stay longer depending on how your pancreas and/or kidney is functioning.