The most significant development in liver transplantation in the USA over the past year was the full implementation of the MELD- and PELD-based allocation policy in March 2002, which shifted emphasis from waiting time within broad medical urgency status to prioritization by risk of waiting list death. The implementation of this system has led to a decrease in pretransplant mortality without increasing post-transplant mortality, despite a higher severity of illness at the time of transplant.
The trend over the last few years of rapidly increasing numbers of adult living donor liver transplants was reversed in 2002 by a decline of more than 30% in the number of these procedures. In 2002, a greater percentage of women received livers from living donors (43%) than deceased donors (34%), possibly because of size considerations.
From 1993 to 2001, the waiting list increased more than sixfold, from 2902 patients to 18 047 patients. For the first time since 1993, the waiting list size decreased in 2002, dropping 6% to 16 974 candidates. The percentage of temporarily inactive liver candidates also increased from 2001, thus the net decrease in the active waiting list for 2002 was 12%. This may reflect a trend toward less pre-emptive listing practices under MELD.
Intestine transplantation remains a low-volume procedure limited to a few transplant centers and is still accompanied by significant pre- and post-transplantation risks. As this procedure matures, its application may increase to include recipients at an earlier stage of their disease with better likelihood of success.