Why Liver Transplant for Metabolic Disease

Children Living with Metabolic Disease Face Extreme Lifelong Challenges

Kids with metabolic disease often must eat special foods or follow restrictive diets that prohibit foods like meat, dairy, nuts, beans, and chocolate.

Phototherapy or emergency intravenous hydration can be inconvenient and time-consuming. Living under close medical care so that doctors can adjust medication based on biochemistry, weight, and other factors can prevent a sense of freedom.

And that’s to say nothing of worrying about the unpredictable long-term nature of the disease, or the chance of a metabolic crisis.

What Is Metabolic Disease and How Does it Impact the Liver?

Metabolic disease disrupts the body’s ability to convert food to energy — one of the liver's major roles.

Metabolic diseases can:

  • Prevent the liver from making proteins that help with blood clotting, transporting nutrients, balancing water storage, and aiding the immune system.
  • Make it harder for the liver to store and release nutrients.
  • Make it harder for the liver to remove toxins and other potentially harmful substances from the bloodstream.
  • Cause liver damage and disease, like cirrhosis (scarring) or hepatocellular carcinoma.

When metabolic diseases cause liver damage, they can also prevent the liver from:

  • Regulating blood sugar.
  • Producing bile, which helps digest fat and gets rid of toxins from the body.
  • Making cholesterol, which produces hormones and vitamins.

The Good News: Living with Metabolic Disease

For children living with a metabolic disease, a liver transplant can:

  • Halt — or even prevent — the progression of disease.
  • Ease — or even endrestrictive diets, opening up new worlds of travel, adventure, and freedom.
  • Be cost-effective, reducing the long-term cost of medical oversight and disease complications.

Most importantly, a liver transplant can provide peace of mind for children with metabolic disease and for those who love them.

Even when it won’t cure a metabolic disease, it can make living with it so much easier.

Because pediatric liver transplant outcomes have been consistently excellent — especially at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh — it's become a viable option for children with metabolic disease.

This is due to four main reasons:

  1. Deeper understanding of metabolic disease, including the role that transplant can play in treatment and when it's most advisable.
  2. Improvements in pre-transplant care. We work with you and your child to decide the best time for transplant. And we make sure your child is in tip-top shape for it.
  3. Decreased risks during the liver transplant surgery itself.
  4. Improvements in post-transplant care. Better drug therapies, shorter hospital stays, fewer complications, and less side effects make it faster and easier to return to school and daily life.

Leaders in Pediatric Liver Transplantation

Of course, a liver transplant is not an easy fix. But we have over three decades of expertise.

At the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation , we’ve done more than 1,700 liver transplants — including over 330 for children with metabolic disease. That’s more than any other center in the nation.

We’re also leaders in living-donor liver transplants, which is often an option for children with metabolic disease.

And, our full spectrum of services and experts will help you and your family meet the challenges that transplant brings.

Want to know more or make an appointment?

Contact the Pediatric Liver Transplant Program at Children's to discuss your child’s metabolic disease at 412-692-6110.