Pediatric Liver Transplant Surgery

Step Three: Transplant Surgery

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Because pediatric liver transplant surgery is a complex procedure, you need a highly experienced transplant team. Duke’s outcomes, including one-year pediatric liver transplant survival rate, are consistently among the best in the nation. This is the case even though we accept low-weight infants and very sick children into our program.

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Before Liver Transplant Surgery

Identifying a Healthy Liver

The quality of a donor liver is very important, and we extensively test donor livers before they are accepted for a transplant. This includes assessments for damage and an evaluation of the donor’s medical and social history to ensure that they have no transmittable diseases. 

Getting the Call

Once a suitable organ is found for your child, your transplant coordinator will contact you immediately. You and your child should arrive at Duke Children’s Hospital in six hours or less after receiving the call.

When You Arrive at the Hospital

Your child will have several tests including bloodwork and an EKG. They will get an IV to receive fluids and medicine. There are times when the organ is not healthy or is otherwise not a good fit, and the transplant must be postponed until a better match is found. We hope this does not happen, but we want to find the best possible match for your child. We will continue to care for your child and prepare them for transplant surgery in the future. They will not lose their place on the UNOS waitlist.

Our Locations

Liver transplant surgery is performed at Duke Children's Hospital and Health Center. Pre- and post-transplant appointments take place at our liver transplant clinic within Duke Children's.

Liver Transplantation

Pediatric liver transplant surgery can last from six to twelve hours. During transplantation, your child’s surgeons will remove the diseased liver and replace it with a portion of a liver from a living or deceased adult donor or an entire liver from a donor child or small adult. You will be updated on your child’s condition throughout the procedure.

Is Your Child Ready for an Evaluation?

If you want to make an appointment for a pediatric liver transplant evaluation for your child, call 919-681-2679. Our team can help with next steps.

After Transplantation

In the PICU

Immediately after surgery, your child will be taken to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) where doctors and nurses will closely monitor their condition and keep them comfortable. Your child may still have a breathing tube in their mouth from surgery, a small tube in their nose that drains their stomach contents, and other support devices. These will be removed as they recover. 

Recovery in the Hospital

When your child is ready, usually three to five days after surgery, they will move to an intermediate care unit, where they will stay until they are discharged from the hospital. Depending on your child’s underlying health condition, they may stay in the hospital for two to three weeks or longer.


Step 4: After Transplant

Best Children's Hospital in NC

Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties.

This page was medically reviewed on 01/15/2021 by