Penn Kidney

Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program

The Penn Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program is home to one of the largest and most advanced transplant programs in the country. Our physicians have performed over 5,000 kidney transplants since 1966, and offer services not widely available elsewhere.

Our patient outcomes are consistently higher than the national average, and we are the only kidney transplant center in the region, and one of a select group of programs in the nation, to be awarded a Silver Level Award by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

A Unique Approach to Care

Patients who choose Penn for their transplant surgery have access to exceptional care that includes:

  • A multidisciplinary team approach. Our multidisciplinary team includes experts in nephrology, cardiology, dermatology, psychiatry, transplant immunology, and urology.
  • Individualized treatment plans. Treatment plans are designed to meet the unique needs of each individual with the goal of maximizing quality of life.
  • Convenient access to care. The Penn Kidney Transplant Program performs transplant evaluations at five locations around the Delaware Valley:
    • Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
    • Penn Medicine at Bucks County
    • Penn Medicine at Radnor
    • Penn Medicine at Woodbury
    • Penn Cardiology Offices, Cherry Hill
  • The highest level of hospitality. The Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House, a beautiful guest house, provides accommodations for patients and their families and caregivers.
  • Innovative strategies. Penn transplant specialists are directly involved in continuously shaping U.S. transplant policy and continue to develop innovative strategies to improve outcomes for patients.
  • Nationally recognized talent. Our surgeons are regularly acknowledged for their talent by both peers and consumers and have been recognized by Best Doctors in America, Philadelphia Magazine's "Top Docs" and America's Top Doctors.
  • Valuable partnerships. Penn partners with Gift of Life, the regional organ procurement organization and the largest in the country, and is a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). We are also certified as a Medicare center for pancreas transplantation.
About Kidney Transplant

Penn's first live kidney transplant was performed in 1966 between two brothers. Nearly 50 years later both brothers are still doing well making the recipients one of the longest surviving kidney transplant patients in the world.

Kidney transplantation allows people with end stage kidney failure to avoid or eliminate the need for dialysis and prolong life. Patients with advanced chronic kidney disease with 20 percent or less function should be referred for a kidney transplant evaluation.

Living Donor Kidney Program

As a result of a shortage of organs for transplantation, living donor programs have been created to allow for individuals to donate an organ to someone in need of a transplant. Penn offers one of the largest and most experienced living donor transplant programs in the nation.

Another living donor option is Penn's paired kidney exchange. This program is an option for kidney recipient and donor pairs who are not blood and/or tissue-type compatible.

About Pancreas Transplant

Penn's pancreas transplant program was the first program in the region to offer pancreas transplant as treatment for type 1 diabetes.

In most cases, pancreas transplants are done in combination with a kidney transplant, but they are sometimes done alone. Several options for pancreas transplant are available including:

  • Simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant (SPK)
  • Pancreas after kidney transplant (PAK)
  • Pancreas alone transplant (PAT)

Patients with type 1 diabetes and advanced kidney disease should be evaluated for both a kidney and pancreas transplant.

Patients who struggle to control type 1 diabetes, but do not have kidney disease, may be eligible for a pancreas transplant alone or for islet cell transplantation. Islet cell transplantation is an experimental procedure that transplants islets cells, insulin producing cells found in the pancreas, from a donor pancreas into the liver of patients with type 1 diabetes. If the transplant is successful, the new islets begin producing insulin. Penn Transplant Institute is one of the leading transplant centers in the world researching islet cell transplantation.

What to Expect at a Transplant Evaluation

Patients who may be helped by a kidney or pancreas transplant surgery first undergo an extensive evaluation consisting of the following:

  • A comprehensive class outlining the types of transplants, the benefits of each, and the selection process
  • A thorough consultation with a transplant nephrologist, social worker, and dietician
  • Blood and tissue testing, EKG, and chest x-ray
  • Access to a transplant support group

Based on the evaluation results, the transplant team decides whether or not to proceed with a transplant as the best therapeutic option.

Transplant Recovery Time

Recovery after transplant surgery may depend on a number of variables. Typically patients are ready to go home three to seven days following kidney transplant surgery and seven to ten days following pancreas transplant surgery. Receiving a transplant requires a commitment to diligently follow the transplant team's plan of post-operative care.

Follow Up Care

Initially, patients will come twice a week to the Transplant Institute for follow-up care and gradually reduce the frequency of visits based on how the recovery progresses. Most transplant patients begin to see their local nephrologist anywhere from three to six months after their transplant in conjunction with one to two visits to the Penn Transplant Institute each year. Each patient is provided with individualized counseling on lifestyle changes, nutrition, and medications.

Innovative Research

As world leaders in transplant research, Penn actively participates in a number of clinical research trials looking at new diagnostic techniques and treatments for transplant patients.

Our research has included the evaluation of:

  • Islet cell transplant for type 1 diabetics
  • Strategies to develop tolerance so that patients no longer need to take immunosuppressive drugs
  • Novel ways to transplant patients with HIV
  • Effective ways to manage and reduce medication