Pediatric Liver Transplant

SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital provides a full range of pediatric liver transplant services before, during, and after transplant. Learning your child needs a liver transplant can be scary, but our team of SLUCare Physician Group experts will be by your side the entire way.

Liver transplants are performed to replace diseased livers with healthy ones. Transplantation of the whole liver is not always necessary. There are some instances where only a section of the liver is needed for pediatric transplant patients. Because of this, family members who are genetically compatible can donate part of their livers. Otherwise, the majority of livers come from unrelated, deceased organ donors.

There are many reasons for pediatric liver transplantation, including:

  • Acute liver failure
  • Alagille syndrome
  • Alpha-1-Antitrypsin deficiency
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Billary atreaia
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Congenital hepatic fibrosis
  • End stage liver disease
  • Liver tumors: Hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatoblastoma
  • Metabolic disorders: Urea cycle enzyme defects, methylmalonic academia
  • Glycogen storage disease
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis
  • Wilson’s disease

If you doctor thinks your child will benefit from a new liver, you will be referred to our transplant team for a complete evaluation. This evaluation will determine if your child is a candidate for a liver transplant.

The Evaluation Process

A pre-transplant evaluation is necessary to determine the risks and benefits of transplantation for your child and to identify any potential problems that could increase the risk of complications during transplant.  The evaluation usually consists of:

  • X-Ray
  • Blood tests
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
  • EKG
  • ECHO

Depending on the results of these tests, your child’s doctor may order additional tests as part of the evaluation.

While You Are Awaiting Transplant

If the transplant team determines that your child is a candidate for a liver transplant and there is no suitable family donor, your child will be placed in the UNOS waiting list. Unfortunately, the waiting list is unpredictable, so we are unable to give you an exact timeframe of how long your child will have to wait for a new liver. It could be one day or one year. Here are a few things you should consider while waiting:

  • Stay as active as possible and live your life as you usually would
  • Have a way for your transplant coordinator to contact your family at all times
  • Take steps to avoid infection:
    • Avoid crowds during cold and flu season
    • Don’t share eating utensils or glasses with others
    • Avoid people who are sick
    • Carry antibacterial cleaning solutions with you
  • Have your child’s labs drawn as ordered and keep your appointments with your doctor. Not doing what the doctor asks can lead to your child’s removal from the transplant list.
  • Keep a suitcase packed with the items your family will need during your hospitalization so that you are ready at a moment’s notice
  • Contact your transplant coordinator if your child has fever, diarrhea, vomiting or runny nose. If your child has an infection you may need to be temporarily deactivated while the infection resolves.

Life After a Liver Transplant

After you go home, your child will need to be seen by your physician and have blood work drawn regularly. These check-ups ensure that your new liver is still working correctly, that your child’s body is not rejecting the new liver and that your child’s dose of immunosuppressant medication is correct. The follow up schedule usually includes the following visits:

  • Once a week for one month
  • Every 2 weeks for one month
  • Once a month for 6 months

Your child may need to be seen more frequently if you have any problems, such as rejection or infection. Your transplant coordinator will help you schedule and plan for your follow-up care, so you know what to expect.

Life after a liver transplant can be exciting, but it can also still be anxiety-ridden. Most children go on to enjoy typical active childhoods, including school and activities, after the initial recovery period.

The SLUCare Physician Group surgeons at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital are experienced in all types of liver transplant methods, so they can offer the best option to meet each child’s needs. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to us – day or night – and we will be by your side every step of the way. Call us today at (314) 577-5351 to schedule an appointment or request a second opinion.

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