Geographic differences in access to transplantation in the United States

Transplantation. 2003 Nov 15;76(9):1389-94. doi: 10.1097/01.TP.0000090332.30050.BA.


Background: The Etablissement français des Greffes reports regional variability in access to organ transplantation in France. Some variability seems to be inevitable for reasons discussed in the French article. We provide comparative data on a similar phenomenon in the United States, including some historical perspectives and recent attempts to minimize geographic variability especially for patients in urgent need of liver transplants.

Methods: To assess regional variability in access to heart, liver, and kidney transplants, a competing risks method was used. Outcomes were examined for primary transplant candidates added to the waiting list during 3-year periods. Results were stratified by region of listing.

Results: Four months after listing, the transplant rate for all U.S. kidney transplant candidates was 10.9%. Regionally the 4-month transplant rate ranged from 4.2% to 18.5% for highly sensitized patients and from 5.4% to 19.6% for nonsensitized patients. For liver candidates, the overall national transplant rate 4 months after listing was 22%, but the overall regional rate varied from 11.8% to 36.5%. The overall transplant rate for heart candidates 4 months after listing was 43.9%, whereas regional 30-day transplant rates for the most urgent heart candidates (status 1A) ranged from 25.1% to 47.1%. Four-month transplant rates for less urgent heart candidates ranged from 24.9% to 40.7%.

Conclusion: Similar to the French experience, pretransplantation waiting times in the 11 U.S. regions vary considerably. Computer-simulated modeling shows that redrawing organ distribution boundaries could reduce but not eliminate geographic variability. It may be too early to tell whether the recently implemented Model for End-Stage Liver Disease/Pediatric End-Stage Liver Disease liver allocation system will decrease regional variability in access to transplant as compared with the previous system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Geography
  • Heart Transplantation / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation / statistics & numerical data
  • Liver Transplantation / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Donors / supply & distribution*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / methods
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Waiting Lists