If your child has end-stage liver disease and needs a transplant, our pediatric liver transplant experts can provide the care your child requires and the hope your family is looking for. We’re one of the best in the nation based on our clinical outcomes for pediatric liver transplants (when considered according to how complex a case is and how severe the illness).
A pediatric liver transplant is a technically demanding operation. After all, the liver is the largest solid organ in the body and has multiple purposes, including the most important: cleaning the blood, producing an important digestive liquid called “bile,” and storing energy from the foods we eat in the form of a sugar called “glycogen.”
Types of Liver Donors
Your child may be able to get a donated liver in one of two ways from a:
- living donor: either a relative, called a “living related donor,” or another unrelated adult
- deceased (or cadaver) donor: the most common way, donated by a healthy adult or child who became critically ill and died of this illness, which is after the person or his or her guardians agreed to donate the organs in the event of a sudden death
How a Pediatric Liver Transplant Works
Once your child gets the team’s OK after all of the required evaluations, tests, and consultations are completed and a deceased or living donor match is found, your child is ready for the liver transplant surgery.
During the transplant, the entire liver of the child receiving the transplant is removed. Then the new liver (or liver portion) is attached in place of the old liver with connections to the important blood vessels. The surgery generally takes 4 to 8 hours. Your child will be admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit after the procedure is over. He or she will be closely monitored and, when ready, will be transferred to a more relaxed setting on the regular inpatient area.
Most children recover from a pediatric liver transplant within a few days. They’re able to eat and move around without much assistance. In a few weeks, they can even return to an active life. Our team members will also work with you and your child for the long-term. We want to make sure your child is healthy now and far into the future.
For Appointments: (302) 651-4200
Seeing Multiple Specialists?
Our Patient Navigators can help schedule multiple appointments on the same day at the same location.
- photo ID
- medical and pharmacy insurance cards
- preferred pharmacy name and phone number
- names and dosage of all medications, including over-the-counter medication, your child is currently taking
- guardianship and custody papers, if a legal guardian rather than a parent accompanies your child
- Patient Presents Without Legal Guardian (PDF)
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Note: A parent or legal guardian must be with a child for a first visit.
Resources for Patients & Families
If your child needs a liver transplant, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children offers a wide variety of comprehensive services from our expert Solid Organ Transplant team.
Why Choose Nemours
- We focus on your child’s quality of life during and after transplant
- We offer top-rate therapy that helps kids recuperate and get back home quicker. Our length of stay is shorter than national averages: many of our transplant patients are back home in three or four weeks after transplant
- Our multidisciplinary team of specialists will consider the needs of every child referred to us, no matter how complicated the case
- We provide excellent, personalized care that places the patient and family at the center
- We work as one coordinated team
Our Pediatric Liver Transplant Team
Our pediatric liver transplant team is made up of a family of highly experienced, qualified, caring health professionals who dedicate their lives to helping children just like yours.
- transplant coordinator, who is a specially trained nurse who serves as your point person from start to finish, arranging all of the details of your child’s care
- transplant surgeons, who are trained and board-certified in pediatric surgery and have further training in pediatric liver transplantation
- nurses, who oversee your child’s care around the clock, taking care of your child’s needs day and night
- pediatricians, who offer insight into the long-term care of the transplant patient as well as immediate care around the time of transplantation
- financial coordinator, who works with you and your insurance company to coordinate all financial aspects of your child’s care before and well after transplantation
- social worker, who is involved with your family from the pre-transplant evaluation through transplantation and post-transplant care, providing emotional support and helping you prepare for each step of the process
- physical and occupational therapists, who encourage specific activities as well as movement to make sure your child is physically strong before leaving the hospital
- Child Life specialists, who are specially trained to work with kids who are sick or disabled and are receiving treatment in a hospital setting
- psychologists and psychiatrists, who offer a wide range of support services to children and families before and long after the transplant
- clergy, who can offer spiritual and emotional support
- dietitians/nutritionists, who offer advice and meal plans for kids with specific nutritional needs
- other support staff, such as pharmacists and laboratory technicians
For Living Relatives Who Donate
At Nemours, we were early adopters of living-related donor procedures, which allow a living relative to donate a segment of the liver for transplantation. If the living donor is cleared for donating the organ, he or she will undergo surgery to remove part of the liver. How much of the donor’s liver is removed depends on the size of the child getting the liver transplant. Most living donors for pediatric patients donate what’s called the “left-lateral segment” of the liver, which is a small piece of the organ that makes up about 30% of the liver mass.
Adults who donate a part of their liver can lead healthy lives because the residual liver will regenerate to a size close to that of the original liver.
Of course, not every child can get a living liver donor, but this technique does make it possible for more children to receive a transplant as soon as possible and increases their chances of long-term survival after the transplant. If there’s no willing and compatible living donor your child will have to wait until a liver becomes available from the local and national organ donor waiting lists.
After children get a liver transplant they still need to take medications (called “immunosuppressants” or “anti-rejection medications") for the rest of their lives to maintain their best possible health and ensure that their bodies don’t reject the new organ. When it’s time to take your child home after the transplant we’ll go over everything you need to know about after-care — homecare, school, financial and insurance issues, transportation, medications, as well as signs and symptoms of infection and organ rejection.
And we follow all of our patients very closely post-transplant, both as inpatients in the hospital and as outpatients. You can rest assured that we’ll give your child customized aftercare and support to ensure the best possible chance for a healthier future.
Also be sure to talk to your transplant coordinator about whether and where you can see your child’s doctors at other Nemours outpatient clinics and offices for post-transplant follow-up care.