Liver transplant waiting time does not correlate with waiting list mortality: Implications for liver allocation policy

Authors

  • Richard B. Freeman Jr,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Surgery, Division of Transplantation, Tufts University School of Medicine/New England Medical Center, Boston, MA
    • Address reprint requests to Richard B. Freeman, Jr, MD, Division of Transplantation, New England Medical Center, Box 40, 750 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111. Telephone: 617-636-5592; FAX: 617-636-8228
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  • Erick B. Edwards

    1. United Network for Organ Sharing, Richmond, VA
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Abstract

Factors associated with the risk for mortality once placed on the liver transplant waiting list and how this risk relates to center-specific waiting time and transplant activity have not been adequately evaluated. We performed this study to determine the association between center-specific waiting time and waiting list mortality among liver transplant candidates stratified by medical urgency at the time of registration. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to calculate 2-year mortality risk for a cohort of 16,414 registrants added to the United Network for Organ Sharing liver transplant waiting list between January 1, 1997, and December 31, 1997. After controlling for confounding variables, we calculated the mortality risk for centers, organ procurement organizations (OPOs), and states. The relation between center-specific waiting list mortality risk and median waiting time or transplant activity was determined by linear regression. In multivariate analyses, higher initial medical urgency status (relative risk [RR] = 12.8; P < .001), increasing age (P < .001), black ethnicity (RR = 1.29; P < .001), history of previous transplant (RR = 1.2; P = .009), certain liver diagnoses, and smaller center size (RR = 1.39; P = .008) were associated with significantly increased waiting list mortality. Candidates with blood type A (RR = 0.87; P < .001) and those with cholestatic cirrhosis as the primary diagnosis (RR = 0.73; P < 0.001) had a reduced risk for dying. There were significant variations in 2-year waiting list mortality risk among centers, OPOs, and states. However, when stratified by medical urgency status at waiting list entry, center-specific waiting time and transplantation rates accounted for almost none of the center-specific waiting list mortality. Although there are variations in waiting list mortality risk among centers, OPOs, and states, there is very little relation between center-specific waiting list mortality and center-specific median waiting time or center-specific transplantation rates when stratified by medical urgency. Waiting time and center transplant rates should not influence liver allocation policy.

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