Functions of the Kidney/Pancreas
The kidneys are a pair of reddish-brown organs located on either side of the spine just below the diaphragm, behind the liver and stomach. They are bean-shaped and about 4 and one half inches long, 2 and one half inches wide and 1 inch thick. The primary function of the kidneys is to remove waste from the body through the production of urine. They also help to regulate blood pressure, blood volume, and the chemical (electrolyte) composition of the blood.
Renal failure is the inability of the kidneys to remove wastes and maintain electrolyte balance. Acute renal failure, characterized by inability to produce urine and an accumulation of wastes, is often associated with trauma, burns, acute infection, or obstruction of the urinary tract. Its treatment depends on the cause and often includes antibiotics and reduced fluid intake. Chronic kidney failure, which may occur as a result of many systemic disorders, causes fatigue and sluggishness, diminished urine output, anemia, and often complications of hypertension and congestive heart failure. The treatment depends on the cause, often involving the use of diuretics, restricted protein intake, and, if the kidney failure cannot be otherwise treated, dialysis and/or transplantation.
The pancreas is a 5 to 6 inch gland located behind the stomach; it extends horizontally between the duodenum and the spleen. One function of the pancreas is to produce enzymes that are used for digestion. It also produces insulin, which is essential for life because it regulates the use of blood sugar throughout the body.
Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Procedures
A kidney transplant may involve one or both kidneys if the donor is cadaveric and only one kidney if the donor is living. In most transplants, only one kidney is transplanted. But, in certain circumstances, particularly if the donor is less than ideal, two kidneys may be transplanted. There is also some experimental work being done on splitting kidneys prior to transplanting them, resulting in two recipients per kidney but this is still extremely rare in practice.
A pancreas transplant may involve either the whole pancreas or a pancreas segment. Whole organ transplants are far more common but a segmental transplant is possible. A specific case where this would be done is if a living donor is involved. Many pancreas transplants also involve transplantation of the duodenum.
The kidney is frequently transplanted with the pancreas in the U.S. Many people suffering from pancreas failure also have renal failure. In most cases a kidney-pancreas transplant is performed from a cadaveric donor. But there have been several transplants performed using a living donor, with one kidney and a pancreas segment being donated.
Reasons for Kidney/Pancreas Transplants