What to Expect If Your Child Needs a Liver Transplant

Liver Transplant Surgery

Getting the Go-Ahead

Deceased-donor liver transplants

When a liver from a deceased donor is available, an organ procurement organization contacts Seattle Children’s.

Both a transplant nurse coordinator and a transplant surgeon are on call 24 hours a day at Seattle Children’s. The transplant nurse coordinator and the transplant surgeon will discuss the history and condition of the donor to determine if this donor organ would be a good match for your child.

If the organ is a good match, the transplant nurse coordinator will contact you to see if your child is able to undergo the transplantation operation. The coordinator must make sure that your child does not have any new health problems that require delaying transplantation, such as a cold or the flu.

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) policy requires that the transplant center (your Seattle Children’s transplant team) decides whether or not to accept the liver offer within 1 HOUR.

Living-donor liver transplants

If you and the transplant team have decided on a living-donor transplant and a donor has volunteered and been approved, Seattle Children’s and University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) will coordinate your child’s surgery with the surgery of the person donating their liver. The surgeries will happen the same day at about the same time.

Preparing for Surgery

If your child is receiving a liver from a deceased donor, the time of surgery is planned for about the same time that the donated liver arrives at Seattle Children’s. The liver cannot live long outside a body, so it must be removed from the donor, transported quickly to Seattle Children’s and then transplanted into your child within a few hours.

If your child is receiving liver tissue from a living donor, the teams at Seattle Children’s and UWMC (where the donor has surgery) will stay in contact during the surgeries. They will coordinate to make sure the tissue is transplanted as soon as possible after it is removed from the donor.

Liver Transplant Surgery

The surgeon will remove the diseased liver and prepare the donor liver for transplant. There are several transplant options, including:

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

Your child’s team can explain the type of surgery your child will have.