Detection and correction of liver disease within the first few weeks of birth is essential to prevent the likelihood of a liver transplant, or at least, to postpone transplantation, paediatric liver surgeons have said.

While 60-70 per cent of babies develop jaundice in the first four days after birth, it usually subsides after about 11 days.

However, if the jaundice continues after two weeks of birth, then the paediatrician must rule out liver disease, Ramesh Kancharla, consultant paediatric hepatologist, who has specialised in liver transplants, said at a press conference organised by Global Hospitals and Health city.

If the jaundice persists for over two weeks, then the paediatrician should check for parameters such as normal stools, weight gain, abnormal hardness of the liver, and in some congenital conditions, abnormal facial features.

These will be indications of liver disease in children, he added.

In a special condition called biliary atresia, where the bile duct is either malformed or blocked, a corrective surgery can be performed within eight weeks and the chances that this will ensure that the child has a good quality of life at 10 years, Mohammed Rela, director – hepato biliary and liver transplantation, Global Hospitals, said. However, he said, most parents bring their children only when the disease had progressed far and so very little could be done for the child, even in terns of transplantation.

Worldwide statistics indicate that incidence of liver diseases in newborns is about one in every 2,500 children.

Lifestyle factors

While lifestyle factors such as consuming junk food lead to fatty liver and, ultimately, liver failure, predominant causes in India continue to be congenital, Naresh P. Shanmugam, paediatric hepatologist and gastroenterologist, Global Hospitals, added.

This ranged from congenital metabolic diseases of the liver, Wilson's Disease and the more common biliary atresia. It is important to create awareness among paediatricians to raise their suspicion for liver disease in kids.

Global Hospitals chairman and managing director K.Ravindranath apprised the media of the plan to set up in Chennai a comprehensive, dedicated centre for paediatric liver diseases and transplantation.

This centre, run by superspecialists with experience in performing a number of paediatric liver transplants, and supported by a complement of paediatric intensivists, will offer a complete suite of treatments for children with simple to complex liver disease.