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BACKGROUND: For selected individuals with type 1 diabetes, pancreatic islet transplantation (IT) prevents recurrent severe hypoglycemia and optimizes glycemia, although ongoing systemic immunosuppression is needed. Our aim was to explore candidates and recipients' expectations of transplantation, their experience of being on the waiting list, and (for recipients) the procedure and life posttransplant. METHODS: Cross-sectional qualitative research design using semistructured interviews with 16 adults (8 pretransplant, 8 posttransplant; from 4 UK centers (n = 13) and 1 Canadian center (n = 3)). Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and underwent inductive thematic analysis. RESULTS: Interviewees were aged (mean ± SD) 52 ± 10 years (range, 30-64); duration of diabetes, 36 ± 9 years (range, 21-56); 12 (75%) were women. Narrative accounts centered on expectations, hopes, and realities; decision-making; waiting and uncertainty; the procedure, hospital stay, and follow-up. Expected benefits included fewer severe hypoglycemic episodes, reduced need for insulin, preventing onset/progression of complications and improved psychological well-being. These were realized for most, at least in the short term. Most interviewees described well-informed, shared decision-making with clinicians and family, and managing their expectations. Although life "on the list" could be stressful, and immunosuppressant side effects were severe, interviewees reported "no regrets." Posttransplant, interviewees experienced increased confidence, through freedom from hypoglycemia and regained glycemic control, which tempered any disappointment about continued reliance on insulin. Most viewed their transplant as a success, though several reflected upon setbacks and hidden hopes for becoming "insulin-free." CONCLUSIONS: Independently undertaken interviews demonstrated realistic and balanced expectations of IT and indicate how to optimize the process and support for future IT candidates.

Original publication




Journal article


Transplant Direct

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