Liver Transplantation Treatments & Care

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Contact the Liver Transplant Program

Once a donor liver has been found, things move very quickly. You will be called and asked to bring your child to the Admitting Office then to the Transplant floor to get ready for surgery. Our team will make sure that you and your family are comfortable and informed.

Keep in mind that it is possible that you may be sent home again if one or both of the following things occur:

  • The team discovers a problem with the donor liver.
  • The team finds that your child has a condition that could jeopardize his health or the transplant’s chance of success.

It’s normal to be nervous, but you can rest assured that your child is in good hands with us. Your child’s surgeon has the expertise required to work with the tiny vessels and ducts found in children.

What happens when we arrive at the hospital?

When you arrive at the hospital, members of your the transplant team will perform a physical exam and run some tests to make sure your child is ready to go to the operating room.

What happens in the operating room?

Often, the anesthesiologist will allow you to take your child into the operating room and stay with him until he’s given anesthesia and falls asleep.

Next, special catheters are inserted into your child’s blood vessels and urinary bladder. A nasogastric tube will be inserted through his nose into the stomach.

The transplant surgeon makes an incision in your child’s upper abdomen. The diseased liver is removed through the incision, and the new liver put in its place. The surgeon reconnects the blood vessels carrying blood to and from the liver, and does a biliary reconstruction so that bile can drain from the healthy liver to your child’s intestines.

How long will the transplant operation take?

Each child and each transplant is different, but a liver transplant operation usually takes around four to six hours.

Because your child needs to be prepared for anesthesia and have all of the special catheters and tubes inserted, you may not see him for a bit longer than the actual surgery itself, but you will be regularly updated as to the progress of surgery and his condition.

What happens after surgery?

After the surgery, your child will go to the intensive care unit (ICU) to be monitored closely. After his condition is stable, your family is welcome to visit. Read more about the ICU

While your child is in the ICU, members of the transplant team will begin to educate you and your family on all aspects of caring for your child after his operation. This will include information about medications, activity, follow-up, diet and any other specific instructions.

How long will my child be in the hospital?

If all goes well, and your child is a teenager, he may stay in the hospital for 10 to 12 days. Babies may stay for anywhere from two to three weeks. A few days are spent in the ICU, and the rest in a single room in the Solid Organ Transplant Unit. During this time:

  • Your child will continue to recover, and we will be monitoring his health and adjusting his medications.
  • Your child will also be seen by his Child Life specialist and social worker to provide additional support during his stay.
  • Our team will teach you about the medicines and care your child will need at home.

Our goal is to have you feel comfortable and confident with all aspects of care before your child goes home. The Patient Care Coordinator here at Children’s will work with you and your insurance company to set up the medications and any in-home nursing care that might be needed after discharge.

Follow up

After the transplant, your child’s team will want to keep a close eye on him through follow-up visits to make sure that everything is going well. These visits might include:

  • Complete physical examination, monitoring of blood pressure, growth, etc.
  • Blood tests
  • Continued education for you and your child
  • Medication changes

How can I help keep my child safe after the transplant?

We understand that you will want to do everything possible to protect your child and his new liver, and there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk of infection

Coping and support

We understand how disruptive and frightening a liver transplant can be - not only for your child, but for your whole family. From your first visit, you’ll work with a team of professionals who are committed to supporting you.

Patient education: Our nurses are on hand to walk you through the transplant process and help answer any questions you may have. They will also reach out to you by phone, continuing the care and support you received while at Children’s.

Parent to parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has had a liver transplant? We can often put you in touch with other families who can share their experience.

Faith-based support: If you and your family find yourself in need of spiritual support, we can connect you with the Boston Children’s chaplaincy. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and United Church of Christ traditions who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your treatment experience.

Social work and mental health professionals: Our social workers and mental health clinicians have helped many other families in your situation. We can offer counseling and assistance with issues such as coping with your child’s diagnosis and stress related to coping with illness and dealing with financial difficulties.

On our For Patients and Families site, you can read all you need to know about:

  • Getting to Boston Children’s
  • Accommodations
  • Navigating the hospital experience
  • Resources that are available for your family

To speak with a member of our Liver Transplant Team, please call:  617-35-LIVER.

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