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About our program

If your child needs a liver transplant, you want the best team. Our UW Health Kids liver transplant team includes some of the nation’s most experienced physicians and certified transplant nurse coordinators.

We know that serious health conditions affect the entire family. Our support services will ease your journey. For more than 35 years, we’ve tackled the toughest pediatric liver transplant cases, and our patient outcomes are excellent. Our wait times are shorter than other programs in the region and nation.

We are an official center for the Society of Pediatric Liver Transplantation, a community of health professionals who work to improve pediatric liver transplant outcomes. We are a Center of Excellence for most insurance networks and a certified living liver donor center. U.S. News and World Report has consistently ranked American Family Children’s Hospital among the nation’s top children’s hospitals.

Why choose UW Health Kids?

Our patients are on the waitlist for less time before having transplant surgery compared to other centers. Our median time to transplant is five months, shorter than the regional and national wait times.

Our physicians and surgeons are experienced in multi-organ transplants. They are supported by the vast resources at UW Health and work together to manage the complex care of kids who need more than one organ transplanted.

Types of liver transplants

Learn about the options available

We offer many helpful resources to help your family before and after your child's transplant.

Living liver donor, deceased liver donor and multi-organ transplant

Living donor liver transplant happens when a person gives part of their liver to someone who needs a transplant. Within months, the remaining liver inside the donor and the new liver inside the recipient grow to their correct sizes.

Living liver donation has many benefits. These include:

  • Speed: If a liver is needed quickly, a living donor can be the best option.

  • Shorter wait time: A child can get a liver transplant before they become very ill.

  • Healthiest donated organs: Donors go through rigorous testing to ensure they are healthy enough to donate.

Living liver donation is either directed or non-directed. Directed donation means the donor knows the recipient. Non-directed donation means the donor’s liver is matched to someone unknown to the donor. 

Learn more about living donor liver transplant

Complete this form if you are interested in being a living liver donor

Some children who need a liver transplant receive their new liver from a donor who has died.  Deceased donor organs are matched against transplant waiting lists in the region and nation.

If your child needs to have other organs transplanted with their liver, our physicians and surgeons have the experience needed for these complex cases. We coordinate care between specialists in liver, kidney and pancreas transplantation.

Meet our team

A highly skilled team

It is important that you are confident that your child is receiving the highest level of care. Our team focuses on excellent communication and will customize care to your child’s specific needs.

Your child’s team includes experts in pediatric hepatology (liver care), living liver donation and liver transplantation. As part of an academic medical center, our research and education are constantly improving care for kids experiencing transplant. We work to make sure your child will have a long and healthy life.

Pediatric liver transplant surgeons
Pediatric GI/hepatologists

The process

The pediatric liver transplant process

Pediatric liver transplantation is a complex process. Our team provides education so you understand what your child will experience. Each step is important to a successful transplant.

Our UW Health Kids liver transplant team will evaluate your child to determine if and when they need a liver transplant.

Your child will have lab work and tests. Our pediatric hepatologist (liver specialist) and a pediatric liver transplant surgeon will talk with you about your child’s medical history. You will also meet with a dietitian who will help with any special nutritional needs.

Our financial consultant and social workers can answer your questions. Your child’s care is coordinated through our certified pediatric transplant nurse coordinator. The nurse coordinator is your personal connection to all our services and will help you navigate this experience.

You will learn if your child will benefit from a liver transplant and will be placed on the national waiting list for a deceased donor transplant. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) operates this list. UNOS matches organs to patients based on age, blood type, weight and degree of illness.

While your family waits for a deceased or living donor, your child will have regular visits with a member of our UW Health pediatric liver transplant team. We will monitor your child’s condition, update their waitlist status, and provide support and education.

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)

When a liver becomes available, you will be asked to bring your child to the American Family Children’s Hospital within a few hours. The surgery will begin when the donated organ is ready to be placed. It may take up to 10 hours to complete. Most children spend 10 to 15 days in the hospital recovering from transplant surgery. While they are healing, you will learn about their medications, care needs and plans for their follow-up visits.

Your child’s liver transplant will require a lifetime of care. During the first year, there will be multiple visits to American Family Children’s Hospital for bloodwork and tests. These tests are important in seeing how well the new liver is working. There will be fewer visits over time. Rest assured that we provide lifelong care, support and education to make sure your child can lead a healthy life.

Smiling child with sign reading UW Health Kids
UW Health Kids

Our pediatric experts have cared for children for more than 100 years. We focus on each child’s unique needs and offer social and emotional support to help you and your child face even the most complex condition. Our long history includes the creation of medical advances that save lives around the world. Together, we help your child recover and get them back to the activities they love.


Top-ranked care close to you

American Family Children's Hospital

The jewel of our services for kids is our beautiful children’s hospital. Themed “All things Wisconsin,” our hospital creates a warm welcome to children and families from Wisconsin, the nation and beyond.

Learn more

Patient stories

Our patients share their stories of hope

Watch how Lucas Hougom's life was changed by a liver transplant
Calvin Schartner, playing on the ground with a stuffed toy.
Calvin Schartner“The team we worked with felt like family to us.”
Just a few weeks after much of the nation shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Christian and Sarah Schartner’s 2-month-old son, Calvin, became very ill.
Luka, about 11 years old, smiling in a red sweatshirt and glasses while sitting at a table playing Uno.
Luka Ogrizovich“So many of our firsts happened at that hospital. It will forever be our home.”
Luka underwent a liver transplant when he was only a baby. The successful transplant performed by the skilled UW Health team has allowed him to flourish.
Ephraim and his father, Josiah
Ephraim VilminEphraim's father donates his liver to save his son's life
The only way to save 6 year old Ephraim's life was for his father, Josiah, to donate part of his liver to his son.
A close up of baby Ila Hellgren's face
Ila Hellgren“Grateful is never going to be a big enough word to describe how we feel”
Nine-month-old Ila Hellgren is alert, wiggly, smiley and energetic and can't get enough of all the new sights and sounds she encounters every day. Her parents, Dana Hellgren and Jadon Scullion, marvel at how happy and healthy she is. Just a few months ago, she was a very different baby.
A little girl sitting in front of a sand-colored wall
Emreigh Barsotti"She loves everyone who cares for her whenever she comes to Madison"
In early March 2020, Julia Habelman was having the time of her life on her honeymoon in Las Vegas. But she returned to a nightmare: her 2-year-old daughter Emreigh Barsotti had become suddenly ill with liver failure.
Will Andrews smiling, wearing a baseball glove
Will Andrews“When I think about that time, I get emotional”
Will Andrews is a sixth-grade boy who loves spending time outside playing basketball and baseball. Most people who only know him through school have no idea that when he was a toddler, his parents feared they were going to lose him.

National leaders in transplant care

View more information important to every transplant patient.

Transplant services