Liver Disease in Children
Comprehensive Care for Your Child's Liver Disease
Children with liver disease receive expert care at Duke from our pediatric hepatologists. We are the largest pediatric liver center in North Carolina and treat a wide range of children's liver disorders. When possible, our experts treat the underlying cause of liver disease, prevent further liver damage, and work to restore your child’s health so they can experience a better quality of life.
Specialized Treatment for Childhood Liver Diseases
There are many different factors that can result in liver disease in children. That's why our specialists’ first goal is to identify the cause of your child’s liver disease. Some of the common liver diseases that affect children include:
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic disorder that damages the liver
- Autoimmune hepatitis, liver inflammation caused by an overactive immune system
- Biliary atresia, inflammation in the bile ducts that carry digestive juices
- Glycogen storage disease, a buildup of glycogen, or sugar, in the liver
- Pediatric liver cancer
- Pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which results from fat buildup in the liver
- Pediatric metabolic liver disease, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s metabolism
- Wilson’s disease, a genetic disorder that causes copper buildup in the liver as well as liver injuries
As a major pediatric liver center, we draw on the expertise of many different specialists to treat your child’s liver disease. Depending on your child’s individual needs, their care team may include a pediatric gastroenterologist and hepatologist as well as nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and dietitians who have years of experience treating children with liver diseases. If necessary, we also draw upon the expertise of Duke specialists in genetics, immunology, metabolism, nephrology, cardiology, and infectious diseases.
Expertise in Pediatric Liver Diseases
Our expertise in treating children with complex liver diseases is well known.
- We are one of only a handful of programs in the nation to manage liver injury and liver scarring in children following Fontan surgery for complex congenital heart defects.
- We offer North Carolina’s highest level of specialty care for children with a rare condition called portal hypertension liver disease. It can occur when the portal vein -- which carries blood to the liver -- is narrowed or blocked.
- If your child needs liver surgery, you can be confident in the range of our expertise. Duke Children’s is one of only seven hospitals in the U.S. verified as a level I children's surgery center by the American College of Surgeons. This Level I designation recognizes our commitment to providing the safest and highest-quality surgical care to our young patients.
- If a liver transplant is necessary, your child is in excellent hands. Our pediatric liver transplant program is the largest in the region, and our survival rates exceed the national average.
- Many of our doctors are actively involved in research, which means your child may be eligible to receive innovative therapies only available through participation in clinical trials.
- Many pediatric liver diseases must be monitored on a regular basis. We work with your child’s local doctor to coordinate lab tests and manage your child’s treatment plan so you can stay as close to home as possible and appropriate.
LIVER DISEASE IN CHILDREN
Tests and Treatments
Diagnosing your child’s liver disease is our first concern. Our work with leaders in pediatric imaging from across the U.S. ensures we use the latest innovations to diagnose your child’s condition with the lowest doses of radiation possible or no radiation, when needed. Armed with this knowledge, we recommend a safe treatment plan.
Measures the amount of proteins, enzymes, and other substances in the blood to determine liver health.
A sample of liver tissue is removed and studied under a microscope to check the health of liver tissue and spot any changes. If your child needs this procedure, he or she will be asleep and will not remember it.
Advanced diagnostic imaging -- including contrast-enhanced ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -- creates detailed pictures of the size, structure, and function of the liver and surrounding organs and vessels.
Obesity and being overweight can damage the liver. Reducing weight with diet and exercise can stop and reverse some conditions, such as fatty deposits in the liver. Our nutritionists help you and your child identify the best foods to improve liver health.
Some liver conditions may require surgery to repair or remove damaged liver or biliary tissues and blood vessels. Whenever possible we perform minimally invasive procedures that require small incisions and help your child recover faster.
Liver transplant may be needed if damage to the liver is severe or unrecoverable.
LIVER DISEASE IN CHILDREN
Family and Support Services
When you bring your child to Duke Children’s, our team will answer all your questions and be with you every step of the way. Our doctors and nurses will also connect your family to other hospital services for the extra care you need.
Our child life specialists provide support, education, and guidance to help you and your child during treatment and hospitalization. Child life specialists explain procedures, offer encouragement, and use fun activities to take your child’s mind off treatment.
Our social workers can help you navigate the medical system and coordinate the variety of health services your child may need. We help you work with insurance providers, connect to community resources, and manage details related to your child’s care.
If your child is staying at Duke Children’s, you can relax in the Ronald McDonald House Family Room. You can grab a light meal, shower, do laundry, or use a computer with internet access.