Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Liver Failure

What Is Liver Failure?

Liver failure means the liver cannot perform its vital functions in the body, such as producing chemicals and filtering blood. There are two common types of liver failure:

  • When liver failure results from a sudden illness in a person with no history of liver disease, it is called acute or fulminant liver failure.
  • When liver failure occurs at the end of a long-standing liver disease, it is called chronic liver failure or end-stage liver disease. Chronic liver failure is linked to severe scarring of the liver, which is called cirrhosis.

Another liver condition, biliary atresia, is the leading cause of cirrhosis in children. Biliary atresia happens when children are born without bile ducts or with abnormal bile ducts. Biliary atresia is the reason for about half of all liver transplants among children.

If your child has liver failure, their liver may not get better. They may need a liver transplant for long-term survival.

Liver Failure in Children

Liver disease affects people of all ages. There are more than 100 known liver diseases. Serious liver disease affects about one in every 2,500 children in the United States.

Liver Failure at Seattle Children's

Seattle Children's has been treating children with liver diseases and performing liver transplant surgery since 1990. We have the only liver transplant program in the Pacific Northwest that cares exclusively for children and teens. We perform:

  • Deceased-donor liver transplant
  • Living-donor liver transplants
  • Split-liver transplants
  • Reduced-size liver transplants
  • ABO-incompatible liver transplants

Our team includes nationally and internationally known experts in children's liver diseases. Our medical and surgical specialists, working together, consider your child's unique needs to evaluate their condition and develop a treatment plan. This team-based approach ensures that your child gets the very best care. Overall survival rates for children who receive liver transplants at Seattle Children's are excellent.

Our liver transplant team includes Dr. Patrick Healey, Seattle Children's division chief of Transplantation. Dr. Healey has performed more than 100 liver transplantations on children.

Dr. Jorge Reyes, director of Transplant Services, is one of the most experienced pediatric liver transplant surgeons in the United States. He has performed more than 1,000 successful surgeries.

Dr. Simon Horslen, medical director of Liver and Intestine Transplant, is an internationally recognized children's liver specialist and transplant doctor.

We are committed to family-centered care to ensure excellent results, both for our patients and organ survival. We are constantly improving surgery techniques and medication therapy strategies to provide the most current treatments and the very best care for your child.

We continue to advance the practice and understanding of transplants through our research programs. Our top research priority is finding ways to make children who have transplants less dependent on anti-rejection drugs.

We are also committed to recruiting and retaining the best transplant specialists.