Disease gravity and urgency of need as guidelines for liver allocation



One thousand one hundred and twenty-eight candidates for liver transplantation were stratified into five urgency-of-need categories by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) criteria. Most patients of low-risk UNOS 1 status remained alive after 1 yr without transplantation; the mortality while waiting was 3% after a median of 229.5 days. In contrast, only 3% of those entered at the highest risk UNOS 5 category survived without transplantation; 28% died while waiting, the deaths occurring at a median of 5.5 days. The UNOS categories in between showed the expected gradations, in which at each higher level fewer patients remained as candidates throughout the 1-yr duration of study while progressively more died at earlier and earlier times while waiting for an organ. In a separate study of posttransplantation survival during the same time period, the best postoperative results were in the lowest-risk UNOS 1 and 2 patients (88% combined), and the worst results were those in UNOS 5 (71%). However, a relative risk cross-analysis showed that a negative benefit of transplantation may have been the result in terms of 1-yr survival for the low-risk elective patients, but that a gain in life extension was achieved in the potentially lethal UNOS categories 3, 4 and 5 (greatest for UNOS 3). These findings and conclusions are discussed in terms of total care of patients with liver disease, and in the context of organ allocation policies of the United States and Europe. (Hepatology 1994;20:56S–62S.)