Liver transplant process

From evaluation to surgical aftercare, the liver transplant process is a long-term partnership between Children’s and your family. Our exceptional pediatric liver transplant team provides all the support and education you and your child need, every step of the way.

Liver transplant team

Children’s Pediatric Liver Transplant Team has been carefully selected to make certain all your child’s – and your family’s – needs are addressed throughout the process. Our team includes pediatric transplant surgeons, liver specialists, nurse practitioners, nurse clinicians, anesthesiologists, transplant coordinators, social workers, pharmacists and dietitians. Plus, you’ll have a transplant coordinator on your side the whole time, helping you navigate care and support services.

Evaluation for liver transplant

The first step in our liver transplant process is to determine if the procedure is a good fit for your child. You’ll meet with our team, who will carefully review your child’s health history and order diagnostic tests – such as blood work, labs or radiology studies – and determine if a liver transplant is right for your child. We also arrange for your child and your family to meet with a dietitian, pharmacist, child psychologist and a social worker.

Living donors

Most livers used for transplantation come from anonymous, deceased donors. However, in some cases, a relative who is able and willing to serve as a living donor for your child can be selected. If so, our adult care partners at Froedtert Hospital – will evaluate to make sure the donor is a good fit.

Placement on UNOS list

If there is no living donor, your child is placed on a waiting list with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for a donor liver. Each child is prioritized based on medical urgency and the wait can vary from a matter of days to years.

The United Network for Organ Sharing manages the nation’s organ donation system. Read more

Pre-transplant education

There is much to learn about prior to your child’s transplant – and you’ll probably have a lot of questions. We provide you with as much information as we can to help you and your child understand what to expect and how to prepare. Through your transplant coordinators, we establish an open, ongoing dialogue. You’ll receive a copy of our transplant manual and also have a chance to meet with all the key members of your child’s transplant team.

Liver availability

As mentioned above, the time it takes for a liver to become available for your child varies widely. Once a suitable liver – or partial liver, if appropriate – is available, things move very quickly. You’ll be notified immediately and, if your child is not already at Children’s, you will be instructed to arrive as soon as possible. We then make sure the liver or liver segment we receive is a healthy match for your child.

Liver transplant

The length of time a liver transplant takes varies. During the procedure, our team removes your child’s damaged liver and replaces it with the healthy donor organ. Throughout the entire process, our team keeps you updated on your child’s progress throughout the procedure.

Aftercare

Post-surgery, your child will be moved to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Our team monitors him or her carefully, watching for signs of infection and rejection. During this time, we also prescribe and manage any medications your child needs. When he or she is ready, your child is moved to a special care unit for continued recovery.

Follow-up care

While most children who receive a donor liver will have a relatively normal existence, a lifetime of follow-up care is required. At Children’s, we’ll schedule regular check-ups to monitor your child’s progress, and help you understand the course of medications required to fight rejection and maintain your child’s healthy immune system over time.