HealthSheets™


Your Child’s Liver Transplant: An Overview

Woman and girl talking to healthcare provider.
A transplant coordinator will help you and your child prepare for a liver transplant.

During a liver transplant, your child’s sick liver is removed. It’s replaced with a healthy donor liver. This sheet will help you understand the process leading up to your child’s transplant.

Why does my child need a liver transplant now?

Your child’s doctor can tell you more about why now is the right time to begin preparing for a transplant. It may be because the liver is not working as it should. Or, it may be that your child has a health condition that would be improved by a liver transplant.

Your child’s transplant evaluation

Before a child is put on the transplant list, a transplant evaluation is done. This takes place at the transplant center or hospital. It takes 2 to 3 days, but your child doesn’t stay in the hospital. It’s done as an outpatient process, so your child comes to the hospital and then goes home each day. Your child’s health is assessed. He or she will have blood tests and imaging tests. You and your family will also learn more about transplantation. The transplant coordinator and the rest of the transplant team will talk to you about:

  • Benefits and risks of liver transplantation for your child

  • Medicines needed after the transplant

  • The risk of organ rejection

  • Health insurance and financial issues

  • Options for organ donation

  • The process of waiting for an organ

  • What to expect during surgery

  • How to care for your child after surgery

  • The emotional aspects of transplant for your child and your family

  • Travel plans for the surgery

Where will my child’s new liver come from?

In most cases, the new liver comes from a donor who has just died. It may be a whole liver from a child donor. Or, it might be part of an adult’s liver. Some transplants are done from living donors, often family members. The part of the liver removed from a living donor grows back after the transplant. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The donated liver may be big or small for a child. But after the transplant, a liver that is too small will grow. A child will grow into a liver that’s too large.

  • A donated liver is screened for disease before the transplant. It’s also checked to make sure it’s a match with your child’s blood type.

  • A living donation transplant can be scheduled ahead of time. It may be done sooner than if a child is on the waiting list for a non-living donor.

Waiting for a transplant

Getting a liver transplant can be a long process. It could be months or years before a donor liver is found for your child. During this time, your child’s name is added to a national waiting list. This list is ranked by how sick people are. Very sick people are higher on the list than people who don’t need a transplant right away.

Follow instructions for how to stay in contact with the transplant center. The transplant center maintains your child’s status on the waiting list. If your child’s liver disease gets worse or another health problem develops, tell the transplant center right away. These events could change your child’s status on the list.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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