Before your child has surgery, nutrition may be a problem. With biliary atresia, not enough bile reaches the intestine to help digest fats in the diet. Liver damage can cause a lack of protein and a lack of vitamins. Children with liver disease need more calories than a normal child because they have a faster metabolism.
Your child’s health care provider may recommend that your child see a pediatric nutritionist. The nutritionist can advise you on your child's diet. A nutritional plan may include a balanced diet and added vitamins, as directed by your child’s healthcare provider.
Some children with liver disease become too sick to eat normally. If this is the case, your child’s provider may also recommend that you give high-calorie liquid feedings. These feedings are given through a tube called an NG (nasogastric) tube. The tube is guided into your child’s nose, down the esophagus and into the stomach. A high-calorie liquid can be given through the tube to add to your child's diet if your child can only eat small amounts of food. Or it can replace meals if your child is too sick to eat.
After surgery, your child's digestion may go back to normal. Or you may still need to give your child extra vitamins or adjust your child's diet. Talk with your child's health care provider for recommendations.
Many factors affect how well children with biliary atresia do over time. These factors include:
- How much damage occurred to the bile ducts
- At what age the child had either a Kasai procedure or liver transplant
- How much liver damage has occurred
- The child’s overall health
After a liver transplant, your child's health will typically improve. But your child must follow a strict medical routine. This includes taking:
- Medicines to prevent the body’s immune system from attacking, or rejecting, the new liver. These are called antirejection medicines. They weaken the immune system’s response.
- Medicines to prevent infection, called antibiotics
- Other medicines may be prescribed, and some new medicines are being investigated to see if they help.
It is important to work closely with your child's health care providers.