Survival after liver transplantation in the United States: a disease-specific analysis of the UNOS database

Liver Transpl. 2004 Jul;10(7):886-97. doi: 10.1002/lt.20137.


Our goal was to describe disease-specific survival and the clinical variables that predict survival in a large national cohort of adult liver transplant recipients. Data on 17,044 adult patients who received an initial orthotopic liver transplant between 1990 and 1996 with follow-up through 1999 was obtained from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Disease-specific Kaplan-Meier survival plots and Cox Proportional Hazards models were estimated, and differences in the clinical characteristics of patients at the time of transplantation by disease were examined. Overall posttransplant survival currently exceeds 85% in the first year and is approaching 75% at 5 years. Unadjusted Kaplan-Meier survival is improved for recipients who are younger, female, and in better clinical condition. Survival is a function of disease and level of illness: cancer, fulminant liver failure, alcoholic liver disease, and the hepatitidies have the poorest prognosis, while primary billiary cirrohsis and sclerosing cholangitis have the best. Recipients who were outpatients before transplantation have longer survival than those transplanted from the hospital or intensive care unit. Although the model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score was designed to predict pretransplant survival, patients with higher MELD scores have poorer posttransplant survival, but the MELD score is less predictive than the specific disease. Differences in disease-specific survival are partially explained by differences in disease severity at the time of transplantation. In conclusion, Disease-specific survival models indicate that there remains tremendous variability in survival as a function of underlying liver disease. However, a significant portion of the difference in survival between diseases arises from differences in clinical characteristics at the time of transplantation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Databases, Factual
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases / classification
  • Liver Diseases / mortality
  • Liver Diseases / surgery
  • Liver Transplantation / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States