Hepatocellular Carcinoma Patients Are Advantaged in the Current Liver Transplant Allocation System

Authors


Corresponding author: Kenneth Washburn, washburn@uthscsa.edu

Abstract

Patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) within Milan criteria receive priority on the liver transplant waiting list (WL) and compete with non-HCC patients. Dropout from the WL is an indirect measure of transplant access. Competing risks (CR) evaluation of dropout for HCC and non-HCC patients has not previously been reported. Patients listed between 16 March 2005 and 30 June 2008 were included. Probability of dropout was estimated using a CR technique as well as a Cox model for time to dropout. Overall, non-HCC patients had a higher dropout rate from the WL than HCC patients (p < 0.0001). This was reproducible throughout all regions. In Cox regression, tumor size, model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score and alpha fetoprotein (AFP) were associated with increased dropout risk. Multivariable analysis with CR showed that MELD score and AFP, were most influential in predicting dropout for HCC patients. The index of concordance for predicting dropout with the CR was 0.70. HCC patients appear to be advantaged in the current allocation scheme based on lower dropout rates without regard to geography. A continuous score incorporating MELD, AFP and tumor size may help to prioritize HCC patients to better equate dropout rates with non-HCC patients and equalize access.

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