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Keywords:

  • Liver transplantation;
  • mortality;
  • OPTN;
  • SRTR;
  • waiting list

Inconsistent identification of reasons for removal from the liver transplant waiting list by Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) regions may contribute to regional variability in wait-list death rates. We analyzed OPTN and Social Security Administration (SSA) reported deaths of 103 364 liver transplant candidates listed May 8, 2003–April 17, 2011, and determined regional variability in risk of death attributable to differences in use of OPTN removal codes. Only 26% of candidates removed as “too sick” died within 90 days of delisting; 6335 deaths after delisting were not reported to OPTN. The ratio of number of candidates removed as “too sick” to number who died on the waiting list varied by region from 0.23 to 0.94, indicating substantial variability in use of removal codes. Including SSA-reported deaths within 90 days of delisting reduced regional variability in risk of death by 48% compared with deaths on the list alone, and by 35% compared with deaths plus the “too sick” designation. Codes for delisting liver transplant candidates are inconsistently applied among OPTN regions, spuriously elevating estimated regional variability in risk of wait-list death. This variability is ameliorated by including SSA- reported deaths within 90 days of delisting.