The Intestinal Transplant Process
Intestinal failure may be medically treated with intestinal rehabilitation, which can restore your child’s ability to absorb nutrients and may delay or potentially eliminate the need for a small bowel transplant. However, an intestinal transplant may be an option if your child's condition is life-threatening. If it is considered an appropriate therapy for your child, the following process will take place.
The first step is an extensive evaluation with all members of the team. It may include various tests and screenings such as blood tests, abdominal imaging, and special procedures (for example, endoscopy and/or liver biopsy), depending on your child’s individual needs. Our transplant coordinator will help you plan for this evaluation.
If the evaluation shows that intestinal transplantation is appropriate for your child, your child will be listed in the national database maintained and administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The average wait time is three to 12 months. Once you receive notification that an organ is available, your child will need to arrive at Duke within six hours.
You will participate in transplant education to learn more about the process and expectations, the medications your child will need, and how to address your child’s physical and emotional needs before and after transplant. A primary and secondary caregiver will participate in more intensive education after the transplant but prior to your child's discharge from the hospital.
Following the intestinal transplant, doctors will closely monitor your child's response to the surgery. We will prescribe and manage medications to prevent rejection. In addition, we perform routine small-bowel biopsies to monitor the transplanted graft. The length of time children spend in the hospital post-transplant can vary from several weeks to several months. Your child will need to stay in the Durham area for an additional 1-3 months or possibly longer for follow-up care before returning home.