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Waiting on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant list can be hard. Patients and families anxiously wait to reach the top of the list, hoping that the right sized organ becomes available as soon as possible. A live-donor liver transplant allows your child to avoid waiting on the UNOS transplant list for a deceased donor organ altogether.
A live-donor liver transplant is an amazing gift for a sick child. This liver transplant option involves removing a portion of a healthy adult’s liver to replace an entire sick liver in a child. The donor is usually a parent (living-related donor liver transplant), but can be any healthy adult with a matching blood type. This type of transplant is possible because the liver is a regenerative organ, which means that the donor’s liver will grow back to a normal size after the transplant. It also means that the transplanted liver will continue to grow as your child grows and develops.
Before the transplant, surgeons look at the donor’s radiology images to review the size and shape their liver. Then, the surgeon decides what portion of the donor liver is needed for your child. Typically, if the adult is donating to a baby, only a small part of the donor’s liver is needed. Removing only a small portion of the liver makes the donor’s incision smaller and less painful, which helps the donor recover relatively quickly.
At Children’s Colorado, the hospital stay after a liver transplant is 10 to 15 days. After going home from the hospital, your child will see a board certified pediatric transplant hepatologist twice a week until they are fully recovered.
Kids should be fully recovered within four to six weeks and can then return to normal activities. Even as they return to normal activities, your child will continue to see the transplant team several times per year to maintain ideal health. At Children’s Colorado, our goal is to give your child a normal quality of life without experiencing limitations from an organ transplant. This means that they will eat a normal diet, play normally, go to school, and participate in their favorite activities.
Any healthy adult with a compatible blood type may be a potential donor for your child. A common misconception is that live donors must be blood relatives (living-related donor liver transplant). This is untrue. Any willing adult above the age of 18 may be a potential donor to a child in need.
An independent donor advocate helps to facilitate the donor evaluation separate from your child's transplant team. The evaluation includes a series of tests such as a blood type test, a CAT scan and an evaluation by an adult hepatologist and a transplant surgeon. During the donor evaluation, the doctors will determine if the adult’s overall health and their liver allow them to be suitable to make such a donation. Donors must be over the age of 18 and in good mental and physical health.
When donating a portion of your liver to a child at Children’s Colorado, the adult donor’s surgery is performed at the University Of Colorado Hospital. Both hospitals are located on the Anschutz Medical Campus, within walking distance from each other. Once the donor’s liver is removed by the adult transplant team, it is carefully packaged and transported to the pediatric transplant surgeons performing the child’s surgery at Children’s Colorado.
Once surgery is complete, the donor remains in the hospital for five to seven days. Upon discharge, they are able to perform all of their normal daily activities. Liver donors should be fully recovered within four to six weeks after the operation. The portion of the liver that the adult donated will immediately start to regenerate to full capacity. Follow-up care includes meeting with the adult transplant team within the first week after surgery and then visiting a primary care doctor. After donation, there should be no restrictions on the donor’s diet, activities or quality of life.
Children’s Colorado partners with the University of Colorado Hospital, where adult transplant surgeons perform over 100 liver transplants every year – making them a premier transplant center in the U.S. The combined live donor liver transplant team from University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Colorado is considered one of the best in the country, with unparalleled experience and expertise in liver transplantation.
Your entire transplant team, including all your doctors and nurses at Children’s Colorado, have extensive pediatric and pediatric transplant training, knowledge and expertise. Your team understands that children are not "just little adults." Every aspect of care at Children's Colorado is pediatric focused. When you and your child talk with them, they will explain medical information in a way that both you and your child will understand.
The liver team at Children’s Colorado includes specialists who will help you with pre- and post-transplant treatment options. Pediatric experts on the liver transplant team include:
For more information on live-donor liver transplants, please contact the liver transplant team at 720-777-6011.