We conducted a series of studies to document changes in autonomic and gastrointestinal function following pancreas-kidney and kidney-alone transplantation, define how autonomic function is associated with quality of life, and identify how transplantation alters the quality of life of diabetic transplant recipients. Uremic type I diabetic patients receiving combined pancreas-kidney (n=23) or kidney-alone (n=16) transplants completed pre- and 12-month-posttransplant evaluation of vasomotor function (total capillary pulse amplitude, capillary vasoconstriction response to cold, capillary response to postural adjustments), cardiac function (R-R interval variation, valsalva ratio), overall autonomic function (total autonomic score, autonomic index), gastric function (cutaneous electrogastrography, gastric emptying, total gastrointestinal symptoms score), and quality of life (sickness impact profile). Kidney recipients experienced nonsignificant improvement in autonomic function with significant improvement in total symptom score. In contrast, pancreas-kidney recipients demonstrated significant improvement in postural adjustment ratio (P≤.0085), valsalva ratio (P≤.0348), electrogastography (P≤.0159), and total symptom score (P≤.0001). Improvement or stabilization of gastric function occurred for 12 of 23 pancreas-kidney patients (52%) versus 5 of 12 kidney-alone patients (41.7%). A path analysis of 56 diabetic patients having a wide range in diabetic autonomic neuropathy, found the sickness impact profile to correlate with valsalva ratio (r=.36, P≤.0056), R-R interval (r=.27, P≤.0396), and vasoconstriction (r=.24, P≤.064). Together, autonomic function measures accounted for 15.2% of the total variance in the sickness impact profile. Sickness impact profile scores also significantly improved for both groups of transplant recipients.
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