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In 2009 Barnes-Jewish Hospital increased the volume of combined kidney-pancreas transplants performed by 80 percent.

The outcomes for those transplants have been overwhelmingly positive—offering patients with type I diabetes and kidney failure a better chance at long-term survival, according to Washington University transplant surgeon Jason Wellen, MD, who directs the Barnes-Jewish kidney-pancreas transplant program.

"If someone has type I diabetes and kidney failure or is close to developing kidney failure, there’s no question that long-term survival is best if he or she receives a combined kidney-pancreas transplant," Wellen says.

Kidney failure is one of the most serious complications of type I diabetes. Statistics show that people with type I diabetes and kidney failure have only a 30 percent to 40 percent five-year survival rate, Wellen says. But with a kidney-pancreas transplant, the five-year survival rate improves to 85 percent.

After transplant, patients should no longer need insulin injections because their new pancreas will supply all of the insulin they need, although they must stay on a daily regimen of immune suppression medication. Some studies have shown that kidney-pancreas patients may experience improvement in other diabetes-related complications, such as neuropathy and vision problems.

Washington University surgeons first performed kidney transplants at the former Barnes Hospital in 1963. "Barnes-Jewish Hospital is one of the premier transplant centers in the country," Wellen says.

"Our kidney and pancreas programs have excellent results due to the multidisciplinary team approach that we take to manage each and every patient."

"Our kidney program is one of the largest in the nation, having performed 193 kidney transplants in 2009," Wellen says. "But more importantly, the long-term success of our kidney transplants is among the best in the nation."

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