Costs of liver transplantation: Primum non obfuscare



The costs and benefits of liver transplantation in adult patients at the University of Pittsburgh were reviewed for the period from 1981 through 1984. Indirect costs such as those to support the surgical and hepatology programs, the operating rooms and the clinical pathology department were ignored, and only those costs generated by the liver transplant program were considered in this analysis. Benefits to the patients are survival itself. Over 8.5% of those who leave the hospital return to full-time employment or other useful activity, including normal, albeit complicated, pregnancies. Most deaths occur during the first 3 months, after which there is a slow decline during the first year. Costs to the patient and/or the third party payers are enormous, and include evaluation as a transplant candidate, procurement of the donor liver, the transplantation itself and lifelong medical-surgical follow-up and immunosuppression plus the management of the undesirable consequences of the whole procedure. Laboratory tests alone average over $52,000 per patient. The consumption of blood and blood products is great and averages 30 units per patient. Duration of hospital admissions averaged about 55 days per patient, of which about 10 were in intensive care units. Total dollar costs were not calculated, however. The benefits to medicine are considerable in the acquisition of new knowledge and skills applicable to other disorders and other patients. The authors conclude that with further experience, the costs will decrease and the benefits will increase.