What is a liver transplant?

A liver transplant is the process of removing a patient’s diseased liver and replacing it with a healthy donor liver.

Children need a liver transplant because they have a liver disease or condition that has damaged the organ beyond repair. The only treatment option for liver failure is a transplant. Learn more about how the liver works.

The transplant process requires extensive preparation and lifelong follow-up care. To learn about the transplant process at Seattle Children’s, see what to expect if your child needs a liver transplant.

About the Liver Transplant Program

Our Liver Transplant Program provides compassionate, state-of-the-art care to children who have liver disease. At Seattle Children's, we have been performing liver transplant surgery since 1990.

As the only pediatric liver transplant program in the Pacific Northwest, we provide care before, during and after liver transplant.

Outcomes of patients who receive liver transplants at Seattle Children’s are among the best in the nation.

We treat infants, children, teens and young adults from birth through age 21 for many types of short-term and chronic liver disorders and liver failure in our Liver and Intestine Transplant Clinic.

Our Doctors’ Expertise

Our transplant doctors are among the most experienced pediatric liver transplant surgeons in the United States and are global leaders in improving care for children before, during and after transplant.

Our liver transplant team is led by:

  • Dr. Patrick Healey, Seattle Children’s division chief of transplantation
    • Some transplant doctors only have experience with adult patients or have minimal experience with children. Healey is one of the few doctors with expertise in both transplantation and pediatric surgery.
  • Dr. Jorge Reyes, director of transplant services at both Seattle Children’s and the University of Washington
    • Reyes has extensive experience performing both liver transplants and multiorgan transplantations.
  • Dr. Simon Horslen, medical director of liver and intestine transplant at Seattle Children’s
    • Horslen is an internationally recognized pediatric liver specialist and transplant doctor.

We are continually improving surgery techniques and immunosuppression strategies. To offer transplants to more children who need one, we have perfected techniques using living donor transplants, split- and reduced liver-transplants and ABO-incompatible transplants.

Our expert team provides patients and families with the most current treatments and the best care in pediatric gastroenterology – the branch of medicine that deals with disorders of the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, stomach and intestines.

In addition to our transplant surgeons, your child’s surgical team includes a doctor who will give your child medicine to sleep during surgery (a pediatric anesthesiologist).

Other Team Members

Before, during and after the transplantation, the same team of doctors, nurses and specialists will care for your child and help your family. In addition to doctors, our team of specialists includes:

  • Physician assistants who are licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision
  • Advanced registered nurse practitioners who hold master’s degrees. They take primary responsibility for the care of our patients.
  • Registered nurse coordinators who arrange for the providers your child will see during clinic visits
  • Dietitians to ensure your child gets the nutrition they need for growth and development
  • Pharmacists to prepare medicines prescribed by your child’s doctors. They also will tell you about a medicine’s purpose, effectiveness and side effects.
  • Social workers to help your family understand and deal with the emotional and practical aspects of medical care
  • Child life specialists who help your child and your family adjust to the hospital experience. They will also help you deal with anxiety and develop positive coping skills.
  • Transplant specialists to schedule visits and help manage insurance coverage and finances