Background: Orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) is widely used to treat patients with end-stage liver disease. However, data on the cost of the procedure are fragmentary. We evaluated the costs, as calculated from resource use, and outcomes of OLT in adults, from registration on the transplant waiting list to the end of the 1st-year of follow-up after the transplant.
Methods: Two parallel cohort studies were conducted from 1994 to 95. All patients ages 18 years and older, on the waiting list (n=33) according to national criteria or having undergone transplants (n=38) were followed for 1 year or until either the transplant (waiting list cohort) or death (waiting list and transplantation cohorts).
Results: Eighty percent of the patients undergoing transplants were alive after 1 year, and no patient died while on the waiting list. However, the estimated cost of the procedure was high: more than 55,000 pound silver for the 1st year after OLT, to be added to 5,500 pound silver for evaluation and further costs motivated by the planned transplant during an average 6.5 months on the waiting list. Age over 40 and a baseline Child-Pugh score of 10 and over were predictive of high costs. The proportion of costs associated with immunosuppressive therapy and rejection were very high.
Conclusions: This medical and economic cohort study suggests that OLT is still expensive; the study identifies sources of extra cost that could be limited either by improved selection of patients or, in the future, by technological advances in immunosuppressive therapy that help avoid medical complications. It also suggests the situation is precarious, with outcomes and costs being very sensitive to variation in graft availability.