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Is liver transplantation using organs donated after cardiac death cost-effective or does it decrease waitlist death by increasing recipient death?


  • This work was presented, in part, as an oral presentation at the 12th Annual Meeting of the American Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, 7–11 March 2012, Miami, Florida, and at the 10th World Congress of the International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, 1–5 July 2012, Paris.

Derek E. Moore, Division of Kidney/Pancreas Transplantation, Division of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 912 Oxford House, Nashville, TN 37232-4753, USA. Tel: + 1 615 936 0404. Fax: + 1 615 936 0409. E-mail:


Objectives:  The aim of this study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness in liver transplantation (LT) of utilizing organs donated after cardiac death (DCD) compared with organs donated after brain death (DBD).

Methods:  A Markov-based decision analytic model was created to compare two LT waitlist strategies distinguished by organ type: (i) DBD organs only, and (ii) DBD and DCD organs. The model simulated outcomes for patients over 10 years with annual cycles through one of four health states: survival; ischaemic cholangiopathy; retransplantation, and death. Baseline values and ranges were determined from an extensive literature review. Sensitivity analyses tested model strength and parameter variability.

Results:  Overall survival is decreased, and biliary complications and retransplantation are increased in recipients of DCD livers. Recipients of DBD livers gained 5.6 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) at a cost of US$69 000/QALY, whereas recipients on the DBD + DCD LT waitlist gained 6.0 QALYs at a cost of US$61 000/QALY. The DBD + DCD organ strategy was superior to the DBD organ-only strategy.

Conclusions:  The extension of life and quality of life provided by DCD LT to patients on the waiting list who might otherwise not receive a liver transplant makes the continued use of DCD livers cost-effective.