Johannesburg Charlotte Maxeke University Hospital the transplant unit commemorated Liver Awareness Day to educate children about liver-related diseases.
Under the leadership of Sister Anja Meyer and Dr. Priya Walabh, Pediatric Hepatologist in Liver Transplantation, the unit has focused on the management and prevention of liver disorders and organ donation.
Walabh explained that cirrhosis (irreversible scarring) of the liver leads to chronic liver failure which leads to increased mortality and morbidity, and that most children with chronic liver failure would eventually need liver transplantation.
“Biliary atresia accounts for more than 50% of the causes of chronic liver failure in children and patients show symptoms within the first three months with prolonged jaundice, yellow discoloration of the skin and sclera, stools pale and dark urine.”
She added that early recognition and referral of patients with biliary atresia was essential because surgery could be performed which could help with bile drainage and slow cirrhosis of the liver.
Walabh pointed out that progression from cirrhosis to chronic liver failure can include signs and symptoms of ascites, poor growth, easy bruising, bleeding, and deficiencies of all fat-soluble vitamins.
“Children with cirrhosis should be referred to tertiary centers early so that they can be optimally cared for for any complications and treatment includes a multidisciplinary approach with regular visits to assess the patient.”