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Preparing for transplant surgery

How Do I Get My Child Ready For a Liver Transplant?

While preparing for surgery, it is very important for the family to communicate the following with the transplant coordinator:

  • If the child’s medical condition changes
  • If the child is hospitalized for any reason
  • If there is a change in address or phone numbers so that the team will be able to contact the family as soon as an organ becomes available
  • If the child’s insurance changes
  • If there is a transportation issue, the team can help make other arrangements.

Disaster plans

Because New Orleans is susceptible to hurricanes, it is important to establish an evacuation plan should your family need to leave the area. The best way to communicate with your transplant team prior or during a storm is through MyChart. Please make sure to notify the team if you will be evacuating, where you plan to go, and how to best reach you during this time.

Infection prevention

It is so important to keep a child and the family healthy while waiting for a transplant. Some simple infection preventions guidelines are listed below:

  • Wash hands often and before and after meals
  • Wash hands after using the restroom or changing a baby’s diaper
  • Keep hand sanitizer available when hand washing is not an option
  • Stay away from family members who are sick
  • Use a face mask while in public and avoid large crowds
  • Stay up to date on immunizations including the influenza (flu) vaccine

Notify the child’s transplant team if the child develops an infection or cold/flu symptoms while on the wait list. The child may need to temporarily become inactive on the wait list while ill.


If the child’s family is not from the New Orleans area and needs help with where to stay, our social services department is available to help. In addition to several hotels in the area offering discounts, the Ronald McDonald House and The Hogs House are both family housing options located on hospital main campus. These accommodations provide a home-away-from-home experience for our families whose children are undergoing care at Children’s Hospital New Orleans.

When children are admitted to the hospital, parents and families are encouraged to actively participate in their child’s care and are allowed open visitation, including accommodations for one adult to sleep in their child’s room. When parents are not able to be present, they can rest assured that their child will continue to receive the best possible care.

Time for surgery

Once a donor liver becomes available, the transplant team will contact the family immediately. This call may come at any time, day or night, so it is important to always keep a working phone near.

Once the child arrives at the hospital, the next steps will occur very quickly. The child will have a medical examination and the parents/caregiver will be asked to sign all consents for surgery, including one for the anesthesia. More laboratory tests and X-rays will likely be done and an IV will be started to give the patient IV fluids prior to surgery. Once the transplant team evaluates and clears the child for surgery, the child will be escorted to the operating room. The child will first receive some anesthesia by facemask and then by IV. Once asleep, an endotracheal tube will be placed to help control breathing, additional IVs will be placed to allow for medication, fluid and blood delivery, and a foley catheter will be placed to help drain urine.

The family will be asked to wait outside in a designated area and the staff will provide updates as they become available. The length of surgery is usually 4-6 hours but could be as long as 8-10 hours.

Following surgery, the patient will be transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) where the family will be able to visit with the child. As the child progresses in the recovery process, the child will be transferred to an acute care unit until stable for discharge to home. While on the acute care unit, the transplant team will assist with teaching the child and parents/caregivers all the skills needed to care for the child at home. The team will also instruct the child and family on what activities will be allowed after discharge. If any medical equipment and supplies are needed, they will be ordered at this time.

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