Liver transplant for children

At Mayo Clinic's campus in Minnesota, a team of doctors trained in liver conditions (hepatologists), infectious diseases and mental health conditions (psychiatrists) work together to evaluate and treat children who may need liver transplants. Children who need hospitalization receive care in the transplant unit at Mayo Eugenio Litta Children's Hospital.

Why choose Mayo Clinic for my child's liver transplant?

In some ways, the process for liver transplant in children is similar to that for adults. But because children with liver disease face unique challenges, they will benefit from the extensive experience of Mayo Clinic's liver transplant surgeons who have extensive experience in both pediatric and adult liver transplantation.

  • The experts at the pediatric liver clinic and Transplant Center work together to ensure your child gets exactly the care he or she needs.
  • The pediatric liver doctor directs the immunosuppression treatment after your child's liver transplant. These drugs are needed to help prevent your child's body from rejecting the new liver.
  • A multidisciplinary team works with you and your child throughout the transplant process. This team includes the liver transplant surgeon, the pediatric liver doctor, the infectious disease doctor, pharmacists, dietitians, physical therapists, clinical nurse specialists, physician assistants and nurses. It usually includes social workers, child-life specialists, chaplains and transplant financial coordinators as well.
  • When the time is right, your adolescent child will experience a seamless transition to adult hepatologists with expertise in congenital liver disease and post-transplantation care.
  • Doctors of the pediatric liver clinic have special interest in the emerging impact of fatty liver disease in children and in pediatric patients transplanted for liver cancer, including living-related transplant.
  • Doctors at Mayo Clinic have extensive experience with liver and kidney transplant for oxalosis and polycystic kidney disease.

Nationally recognized expertise

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks No. 1 for digestive disorders in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., are ranked among the Best Hospitals for digestive disorders by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic also ranks among the Best Children's Hospitals for digestive disorders.

How do I know if my child is eligible for transplant?

The transplant team evaluates your child to determine if a liver transplant is the most appropriate treatment for your child's liver condition. If the team determines your child is eligible for a liver transplant, he or she will be placed on a waiting list for a deceased-donor liver and may also be considered for a living-donor liver transplantation.

Where will the new liver come from?

Your child may be eligible for either a deceased-donor liver transplant or a living-donor liver transplant. In liver transplant for children, surgeons may use an entire deceased-donor liver or a portion of a deceased-donor liver. If a living donor is available, your child's liver is replaced with a portion of an adult living-donor's liver, which then grows to be the size needed by the child.

Learn more about the Mayo Clinic Living-Donor Program.

Who will do the surgery?

Your child's surgery will be performed by a pediatric operating team, led by a liver transplant surgeon with extensive experience in pediatric and adult liver transplantation, as well as an anesthesia team specializing in the care of children.

What can I expect after my child's surgery?

Immediately following the surgery, your child will be cared for in the pediatric intensive care unit by doctors and nurses who specialize in the care of children with very complex medical conditions. How long your child stays in the hospital after surgery depends on his or her medical condition and recovery. The transplant team will monitor your child's recovery.

After your child has left the hospital, you and your child will need to stay near the hospital for about two to four weeks so that doctors can monitor his or her recovery. Your child will have regular follow-up appointments to check for signs of rejection. After the transplant, a liver transplant coordinator who is a registered nurse will provide your child with continuing care, in cooperation with the pediatric liver doctor and the liver transplant surgeon.

The transplant team will work closely with your primary care provider to coordinate care close to home once you have completed your recovery period.

Outcomes following liver transplantation for children are excellent. But children with a new liver will need medicines for the rest of their life to help prevent complications. And they'll need to visit the liver doctor regularly to make sure the new liver is working well and that the dose of medications are adjusted properly as your child grows.