Liver Transplant Planning & Evaluation
How do I get my child ready for a liver transplant?
If your child’s provider thinks he or she may be a good candidate for a liver transplant, the provider will refer your child to a transplant center for evaluation. Transplant centers are located in certain hospitals throughout the U.S.
Your child will meet the transplant center team. The team will decide whether to place your child’s name on a national transplant waiting list. The transplant center team will include:
- A transplant surgeon
- A transplant provider specializing in treating the liver, called a hepatologist
- Transplant nurses
- A social worker
- A psychiatrist or psychologist
Other team members such as a dietitian, a chaplain, or an anesthesiologist
The transplant evaluation process
You child must have a full evaluation before he or she can be placed on the transplant waiting list. The transplant center team will do many tests, including:
- Psychological and social evaluation. These tests are done on your child, if he or she is old enough, and your family.
- Blood tests. These tests are done to help find a good donor match and assess your child’s priority on the waiting list. They can also help improve the chances that your body won’t reject the donor liver.
- Diagnostic tests. Tests may be done to check your child’s liver and general health. These tests may include X-rays, ultrasounds, a liver biopsy, and dental exams.
The transplant center team will look at all of your child’s test results and information. Each transplant center has rules about who can have a liver transplant.
Your child may not be able to have a transplant if he or she:
- Has a current or chronic infection that can’t be treated
- Has metastatic cancer. This is cancer that has spread from its main location to one or more other parts of the body.
- Has severe heart problems or other health problems
Has a serious condition besides liver disease that would not get better
after a transplant
Getting on the waiting list
If your child is accepted as a transplant candidate, he or she will be placed on a national transplant waiting list. People who most urgently need a new liver are put at the top of the list. Your child may be on the waiting list only a few days or weeks before receiving a donor organ. But if no living related donor is found, your child may have to wait months or years. During this time, your child will have close follow-up with his or her provider and the transplant team. Support groups are also available to help you during this waiting time.
You will be contacted when a liver is available because a donor has died. You will need to go to the hospital right away so your child can get ready for surgery.
If the liver is from a living donor, the surgery will be planned in advance. Your child and the donor will have surgery at the same time. The donor must be in good health. He or she must have a blood type that is a good match with your child’s blood type. The donor will also take a psychological test. This is to be sure he or she is comfortable with this decision.