Pediatric Liver Transplant

Pediatric Transplantation

Pediatric Liver Transplant

Information For Parents From Kids Health

When Your Child Needs a Liver Transplant

If your child needs a liver transplant, you want the best team supporting their needs. Our pediatric liver transplant team includes some of the nation’s most experienced pediatric liver transplant physicians and certified transplant nurse coordinators. We know that serious health conditions affect the entire family and our support services will ease your journey. For more than 35 years we’ve tackled the toughest pediatric liver transplant cases and our patient outcomes continue to be excellent. Our wait times are shorter than other programs in the region and nation. If your child is already listed at another center, you can dual list with us to increase the chance your child will receive an organ offer.

We are an official center for SPLIT- the Society of Pediatric Liver Transplantation - a community of health professionals who work to improve pediatric liver transplant outcomes. We are a Center of Excellence for most insurance networks and a certified living liver donor center. U.S. News and World Report has consistently ranked American Family Children’s Hospital among the nation’s top children’s hospitals.

Ready to learn more? Request information from our team

Why Chose UW Health

Shorter wait times

Currently, our patients are on the wait list for less time before being transplanted, as compared to other centers. 

We have excellent patient outcomes

Our experts care for very sick kids and know how to get them, and their families, through the transplant journey. Our survival rates are excellent, and our patients thrive.

The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients provides data about each transplant centers’ volume and outcomes. This information will help you understand the data. This information will help you see how we compare to other programs.  

Excellence in living liver donation

For more than 20 years, our experts have served living liver donors. We are well-known experts in living liver donation and transplantation for children.

We do multi-organ transplants

Our physicians and surgeons are experienced in multi-organ transplants. They are supported by the vast resources at UW Health and work together to manage the complex care of kids who need more than one organ transplanted.

Research to advance care for kids

At UW Health, we’re dedicated to improving care for kids and the liver transplant process. We lead studies on new medications, technology, recovery and post-transplant care. Learn more about pediatric research | Learn more about our transplant research

Types of liver transplant

Deceased donor liver transplant 

Some children who need a liver transplant receive their new liver from a donor who has died.  Deceased donor organs are matched against transplant waiting lists in the region and nation.

Living donor liver transplant

Living donor liver transplant happens when a living person gives part of their liver to someone who needs a transplant. Within months, the remaining liver inside the donor and the new liver inside the recipient grow to their correct sizes.

Living liver donation has many benefits. These include:

  • Urgent need: If a liver is needed quickly, a living donor can be the best option.
  • Shorter wait time: A child can get a liver transplant before they become very ill.
  • Healthier donated organs: Donors go through rigorous testing to ensure they are healthy enough to donate.

Living liver donation is either directed or non-directed. Directed donation means the donor knows the recipient. Non-directed donation means the donor’s liver is matched to someone unknown to the donor.

Multi-organ transplant

If your child needs to have other organs transplanted with their liver, our physicians and surgeons have the experience needed for these complex cases. We coordinate care between specialists in liver, kidney and pancreas transplantation.

A highly skilled team

It is important that you and your child are confident that you are receiving the highest level of care. Our team focuses on excellent communication and will customize care to your child’s specific needs. Your child’s team includes experts in pediatric hepatology (liver care), living liver donation and liver transplantation. As part of an academic medical center, our research and education are constantly improving care for kids experiencing transplant. We provide thorough education and work to make sure your child will have a long and healthy life. 

Meet our team

Before and after transplant

Pediatric liver transplantation is a complex process. Our team provides thorough education. We want you to understand what they will experience. Each step is important to a successful transplant.

Evaluation

Our UW Health pediatric liver transplant team will evaluate your child to determine if and when they need a liver transplant. Your child will have lab work and tests. Our pediatric hepatologist (liver specialist) and a pediatric liver transplant surgeon will talk with you about your child’s medical history. You will also meet with a dietitian who will help with any special nutritional needs. Our financial consultant and social workers can answer your questions. Your child’s care is coordinated through our certified pediatric transplant nurse coordinator. She is your personal connection to all our services and will help you navigate through this experience.

Waiting period

You will learn if your child will benefit from a liver transplant and will be placed on the national waiting list for a deceased donor transplant. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) operates this list. UNOS matches organs to patients based on age, blood type, weight and degree of illness. Our team will also discuss with you the benefits of living liver donation. While your family waits for a deceased or living donor, your child will have regular visits with a member of our UW Health pediatric liver transplant team. We will monitor your child’s condition, update their wait list status as necessary, and provide support and education.

Surgery

When a liver becomes available, you will be asked to bring your child to the American Family Children’s Hospital within a few hours. The surgery will begin when the donated organ is ready to be placed and may take up to 10 hours to complete. Most children spend 10 to 15 days in the hospital recovering from transplant surgery. While they are healing, you will learn about their medications, care needs and plans for their follow-up visits.

Follow-up care

Your child’s liver transplant will require a lifetime of care. During the first year, there will be multiple visits to American Family Children’s Hospital for bloodwork and tests. These tests are important in seeing how well the new liver is working. There will be fewer visits over time, to when just bi-annual check-ins are scheduled. Rest assured that we provide lifelong care, support and education to make sure your child can lead a healthy life.

Top-ranked care close to you

Pediatric liver transplant services are at American Family Children’s Hospital, in Madison. Liver transplant surgery happens at University Hospital, which is connected to American Family Children’s Hospital. Patients recover at American Family Children’s Hospital.

Baby Ila underwent a transplant surgery and is now healthy and happy

Stories of hope

Ila’s parents share her story

“Grateful is never going to be a big enough word to describe how we feel.”

Ila Hellgren loves life. The 9-month-old is alert, wiggly, smiley and energetic, and she can't get enough of all the new sights and sounds she encounters every day. Her parents, Dana Hellgren and Jadon Scullion, marvel at how happy and healthy she is - just a few

Our patients gratefully share their stories of hope.

months ago, she was a very different baby. Read her story

Will’s mom shares an update

“When I think about that time, I get emotional.”  

Will Andrews is a typical sixth-grade boy who loves spending time outside playing basketball and baseball. Most people who only know him through school have no idea that when he was a toddler, his parents feared they were going to lose him. Read his story

Resources for patients and families

We offer many helpful resources for before and after your transplant.

Patient support program

Transplant patient resources

Frequently asked questions

Information for liver transplant patients

Protecting your health

Health records

These resources can help you track your vital signs and medications.

Internet resources

These organizations can help you learn more about organ transplants and kidney health.