Liver Disease in Children

Liver Disease in Children

Comprehensive Care for Your Child's Liver Disease

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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 have a better quality of life. 

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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, in which fat builds up 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

Our pediatric liver center draws 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.

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

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. Armed with a diagnosis, we recommend a safe treatment plan.

Liver Function Test

Measures the amount of proteins, enzymes, and other substances in the blood to determine liver health.

Liver Biopsy

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 when it takes place and will not remember it. 

Imaging Tests

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.

Lifestyle Changes

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. 

Surgery

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

Liver transplant may be needed if damage to the liver is severe or unrecoverable.

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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 your child needs.

Child Life Specialists

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.

Care Coordination and Support

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.

Ronald McDonald Family Room

If your child is staying at Duke Children’s, you can relax in the Ronald McDonald Family Room. You can grab a light meal, shower, do laundry, or use a computer with internet access.

Best Children's Hospital in NC
Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in nine pediatric specialties.

Expertise in Pediatric Liver Diseases

Experience with Complex Conditions
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.

Portal Hypertension Liver Disease Expertise
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.

The Highest Quality Surgical Care
If your child needs liver surgery, you can be confident in the range of our expertise. Duke Children’s is one of a small number of U.S. hospitals 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.

Pediatric Liver Transplant Program
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.

The Latest Research
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.

Coordination and Support
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.