Kids' liver problems

Kids' liver problems

Fatty Liver Disease has become a very common condition among obese children these days, notes Dr Neelam Mohan.

Contrary to popular perception, it’s not just alcoholics who suffer from liver ailments. A large number of children, too, could suffer from liver problems when the liver gets damaged due to defects, either in its structure or function, because of the absence of an enzyme or chemical at birth. These conditions may necessitate the need for a liver transplant in newborns and infants.

The common defect in structure is  biliary atresia where the bile duct, which supplies bile juice to the intestine, is not formed before birth. The other common conditions where the enzymes are   defective are metabolic liver diseases. It could be Wilson’s Disease, where copper enzymes are defective, or Tyrosinemia, where digestion of protein is defective, or Glycogen Storage Disorder or                 Galactosemia, where digestion of               carbohydrates is defective. Occasionally, autoimmune conditions, where the body develops antibody against its own liver cells, could result in liver damage in a child.

Apart from that, one of the growing  concerns of liver problems in children is fatty liver disease, which is mostly seen in overweight and obese children. Habitual consumption of junk foods like softdrinks and fried chips, along with decreased activity, has resulted in this shocking increase in Fatty Liver Disease in kids. Sometimes, however, certain medications like anti-tuberculosis or antiepileptic drugs could cause damage to the liver. And in rare cases, the child may develop tumor in the liver, which could result in liver failure.


n  Lethargy
n  Irritability
n  Excessive sleepiness
n  Loud breathing
n  Hyperventilation
n  Altered sensorium
n  Deeping jaundice
n  Swollen abdomen
n  Decreased urination

Liver transplantation

Liver is probably the only organ that can regenerate itself. A healthy liver donor can regenerate his/her liver completely in three months. Nowadays, liver transplantation is a well-accepted treatment option for end-stage liver disease and acute liver failure, as it has a 95 percent success rate. To cap it, liver transplantation in children is much more successful than in adults. When performed correctly, kids react very positively to the surgery.


n Have boiled water in unknown places.
n Get the Hepatitis B and A vaccine.
n Do not binge on junk food.
n Involve yourself in some form of physical activity for atleast two hours a day.
n Make sure the needles and other equipment used during medical check-ups and blood transfusion are new and sterilised.

(The writer is director of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, liver transplantation at Medanta-The Medicity, Gurgaon)