Treatments for Biliary atresia in Children

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Contact the Center for Childhood Liver Disease

  • 1-617-355-5837
  • International: +01-617-355-5209

It's entirely natural that you might be concerned right now about your child's health; a diagnosis of biliary atresia can be frightening. But you can rest assured that at Boston Children's Hospital, your child is in good hands. Our physicians are bright, compassionate and committed to focusing on the whole child, not just his condition—that's one reason we're frequently ranked as a top pediatric hospital in the United States.

After the diagnosis is made, your child's team will work with you to optimize his health, including making a plan to foster nutrition and growth and give him regular liver tests to monitor the progression of the disease.

While there's no medical cure for biliary atresia, two different operations can allow your child to live longer and have a better quality of life – a Kasai portoenterostomy and a liver transplant.

Kasai portoenterostomy

During a Kasai portoenterostomy, your child's surgeon replaces her damaged bile ducts with a piece of her intestine. This allows bile to drain directly from the small bile ducts at the edge of your child's liver straight into her intestine. Following the surgery, your child may stay in the hospital between seven and 10 days. If done within the first two to three months of your child's life, a Kasai portoenterostomy can allow her to grow and remain in fairly good health for several years.

In about 10 to 20 percent of cases, even after a successful portoenterostomy, jaundice may not go away, bile won't flow, and these children will need a liver transplant usually by the age of 2.

Along with the Kasai portoenterostomy, your child's doctors will do a liver biopsy to determine the extent of your child's liver damage. It may also help predict how her condition will progress in the coming months.

After surgery, your child will need ongoing medical care and monitoring, including tests. Your child's doctor can explain to you what the tests mean, and what the signs are that your baby's liver is doing well or getting worse. The doctor will also talk to you about the complications of biliary atresia that may require a liver transplant.

Liver transplant

A liver transplant is an operation in which the transplant surgeon removes your child's damaged liver and replaces it with a new liver.

The new liver can be the whole liver from a deceased donor, or a segment from a deceased donor or a living family member (if he or she is a suitable candidate). In the case of a living donor, the donor's liver will grow back to more or less its full size just a few weeks after the operation.

After surgery, the new liver begins functioning and the child's health often improves quickly, although transplants carry complications of their own.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944