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Abstract

Access of patients to liver transplantation involves three levels: referral for evaluation for transplantation, placement on a waiting list for transplantation, and receipt of a liver transplant. No study has formally evaluated access to liver transplantation at the referral level. Therefore, we sought to estimate the magnitude and determinants of consideration of liver transplantation in patients at a single, large Veterans Affairs medical center. Patients with liver disease were identified between October 2002 and September 2003, and their entire medical records were examined for encounters involving potential indications for liver transplantation according to American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) guidelines, mention of liver transplantation, and potential contraindications. Liver transplantation was mentioned in only 59 (20%) of 300 encounters, constituting 41 (21%) of 199 patients satisfying AASLD guidelines for referral. The significant negative independent determinants of mention of liver transplantation were older age (adjusted odds ratio [OR]: 0.31; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.13-0.77, P = 0.01), alcoholic liver disease (adjusted OR: 0.10; 95% CI: 0.02-0.57, P = 0.01), and black race (OR: 0.15; 95% CI: 0.02-0.96, P = 0.045). Most patients had potential contraindications that were inferred (but not documented) as reasons for not being evaluated for transplantation; however, a small but significant proportion (7%) had no recorded evidence of contraindications. In conclusion, we found a low rate of mention of liver transplantation in patients who satisfied AASLD guidelines for referral, particularly among patients with alcoholic liver disease and blacks. Deficiencies at the referral level may lead to disparities at further levels of access to liver transplantation. (Liver Transpl 2005.)