When you hear the doctor telling you that your child’s liver is failing and will need surgery, you may feel scared, angry or confused. It can be a scary process but keep in mind most children who have a liver transplant survive and live longer and healthier. We can help you understand the possible reasons why your child needs a liver transplant and what to expect during the process.
Why does your child need a liver transplant?
A liver transplant is needed when your child’s current liver is not working properly. The liver is one of the most important organs in your body. It is responsible for filtering the blood of dangerous toxins, producing bile (a substance necessary for digesting food), and storing energy in the form of sugars. When you child’s liver is not working, it can cause your child to become very sick. There are some health conditions that can cause the liver to fail. These conditions may include:
- Hepatitis, inflammation of the liver that can lead to scarring and permanent damage;
- Hemochromatosis, a genetic disease that causes the body to intake too much iron that leads to liver damage;
- Wilson’s disease, a genetic disease that causes the body to intake too much copper that leads to liver damage;
- Alagile syndrome, a genetic disease that causes liver damage and abnormalities;
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic disease that prevents the body from producing an important protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin needed for liver function.
Your doctor will find all measures to save the old liver but when it is not possible, a liver transplant is the best option for your child to live longer and healthier.
How do you find a liver donor?
To find a healthy liver, your doctor will have to request for a liver donor. There is usually a waiting list and it may take some time to find an available liver that matches your child’s blood type and tissue. Just be patient and know that your doctor and the transplant team is doing their best to find your child a healthy liver as soon as it becomes available.
The liver is usually from a deceased donor. But there are some cases when the liver can come from a living donor. The liver is divided into 2 portions: the right lobe and the left lobe. A child may just need a portion of an adult liver. The liver from the living donor will regenerate and grow back to normal size after a few weeks. You should talk to your doctor see if you or someone in your family is a possible donor.
How do you support your child after a liver transplant?
You should support your child by keeping them informed on what will happen before, during and after the liver transplant. It is important to include your child in consultations with your doctor. This way you will gain your child’s trust and make them feel safe and secure.
After the liver transplant, your child will need your support more than ever. The first few weeks and months will be hard. There will be many changes that will affect you and your family. It is important for you to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions, don’t miss any dose of the prescribed immunosuppressive drugs, avoid crowded areas and people who are sick. Your child will also go through physical and emotional changes. Try to stay positive and strong. Your child needs your support more than ever.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: September 18, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
New Zealand liver transplant unit. Pediatric liver transplantation: Parent guide. https://www.starship.org.nz/media/181948/parentsguidebookfinal_suitable_for_email.pdf. Accessed September 18, 2016.
When your child needs a liver transplant. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/liver-transplant.html. Accessed September 18, 2016.