Pediatric Liver Transplants

This information is useful for children
Why Yale Medicine?
  • The Yale New Haven Transplant Center is the only transplant center providing pediatric liver transplantation in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and southern Massachusetts.
  • Our team has performed more than 74 transplants; the survival rate is 100 percent.
  • Our pediatric liver specialists have the expertise to diagnose and treat liver disease early and accurately.

The liver has several important jobs, including cleaning the blood and getting rid of toxins. So when a child’s liver becomes badly diseased or damaged, it may need to be replaced with a healthy liver (or a portion of one), so the body can function normally.

Fortunately, pediatric liver transplants at Yale Medicine are extremely safe and successful, and can cure many cases of childhood liver failure. From diagnosis to medical treatment to surgery – when needed – to recovery, patients and their families are in good hands.

The most common reason for a pediatric liver transplant is biliary atresia, which affects about one of every 10,000 to 20,000 babies born in North America. Inflammation forms around a child’s bile ducts — which usually allow digestive liquid to drain into the intestines — and the ducts become blocked. The liver becomes scarred and damaged when it cannot get rid of this fluid.

Biliary atresia is usually diagnosed when a child is about 5 to 6 weeks old, says Udeme Ekong, MD, MPH, an associate professor of Pediatrics and medical director of the Pediatric Hepatology Program and the Liver Transplant Program at Yale Medicine. Doctors aren’t sure what causes biliary atresia or whether it begins before or after birth. “What we do know is that the earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the outcome after surgery,” Ekong says.

Other types of liver disease in children include inherited genetic, metabolic, and autoimmune disorders like autoimmune hepatitis, which are diagnosed and treated in the Pediatric Hepatology Program at Yale Medicine.

Children of any age can also experience sudden liver failure from several different causes. Despite numerous tests, however, doctors are often unable to determine why children experience liver failure.

Clinical Trials

New treatments for many conditions are tested in clinical trials, which ultimately bring lifesaving new drugs and devices to the patients who need them most. By participating in a clinical trial, you may get access to the most advanced treatments for your condition, and help determine their benefits for future patients.