Children's Hospital Colorado
Transplant Program
Transplant Program

Pediatric Split-Liver Transplants

The Liver Transplant Program offers patients with end-stage liver disease multiple transplant options, including split-liver transplants. We understand that families waiting on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant list are eagerly awaiting the phone call that tells them an organ is available for their child. Choosing a split-liver transplant not only saves two lives with one organ, but also may shorten your child’s wait for a liver transplant.

What is a split-liver transplant?

An illustration of a man and a child, each showing where their livers are, with a close-up illustration of a liver with a dashed white line on a blue circle background between them.

During a split-liver transplant, a donor’s liver is divided into two pieces. One portion is transplanted into a child and the other portion is transplanted into a larger child or adult on the list. The transplant surgeons always look at the donated liver carefully to make sure it can be split safely and provide a good outcome for both the pediatric and adult transplant recipient. 

Children’s Hospital Colorado’s transplant team works closely with the University of Colorado Hospital’s transplant team, a premier adult transplant center performing one of the highest numbers of adult liver transplants in the Unites States. This partnership is powerful and important for pediatric patients because it gives patients at Children’s Colorado more potential options and access to liver transplants.

Benefits of a split-liver transplant in children

In addition to the life-saving benefits of organ transplant, split-liver transplant can:

  • Shorten the waiting time for a liver to become available
  • Save two lives with one donor’s liver

What can liver recipients expect during recovery?

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 and sports.

Frequently asked questions about split-liver transplantation in children

What is a regenerative organ?

A healthy person’s liver is larger than they need, allowing it to withstand the natural wear and tear that happens throughout life. The liver is also a regenerative organ, which means that if it is healthy, it can re-grow. The liver is the only solid organ in the body that can regenerate itself to its normal size - larger than what is needed. This unique characteristic allows transplant surgeons to split one liver into two sections, using only the amount each recipient needs to survive and thrive.

Will the donor’s liver be the same size as the one you remove?

Often children with liver disease have livers that are smaller than normal and don’t function as well as normal. During a liver transplant, surgeons take advantage of the fact that the liver is the only regenerative solid organ in the body. Your child’s new liver will be closer to their needed amount and continue to regenerate itself to an optimal size.

Will the liver grow as the child gets older?

Yes, the liver is a regenerative organ; as your child grows, their liver tissue grows with him or her.

Contact us

For more information on live-donor liver transplants, please contact the liver transplant team at 720-777-6011.

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