Comparative survival and economic benefits of deceased donor kidney transplantation and dialysis in people with varying ages and co-morbidities

PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29591. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029591. Epub 2012 Jan 18.


Background: Deceased donor kidneys for transplantation are in most countries allocated preferentially to recipients who have limited co-morbidities. Little is known about the incremental health and economic gain from transplanting those with co-morbidities compared to remaining on dialysis. The aim of our study is to estimate the average and incremental survival benefits and health care costs of listing and transplantation compared to dialysis among individuals with varying co-morbidities.

Methods: A probabilistic Markov model was constructed, using current outcomes for patients with defined co-morbidities treated with either dialysis or transplantation, to compare the health and economic benefits of listing and transplantation with dialysis.

Findings: Using the current waiting time for deceased donor transplantation, transplanting a potential recipient, with or without co-morbidities achieves survival gains of between 6 months and more than three life years compared to remaining on dialysis, with an average incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of less than $50,000/LYS, even among those with advanced age. Age at listing and the waiting time for transplantation are the most influential variables within the model. If there were an unlimited supply of organs and no waiting time, transplanting the younger and healthier individuals saves the most number of life years and is cost-saving, whereas transplanting the middle-age to older patients still achieves substantial incremental gains in life expectancy compared to being on dialysis.

Conclusions: Our modelled analyses suggest transplanting the younger and healthier individuals with end-stage kidney disease maximises survival gains and saves money. Listing and transplanting those with considerable co-morbidities is also cost-effective and achieves substantial survival gains compared with the dialysis alternative. Preferentially excluding the older and sicker individuals cannot be justified on utilitarian grounds.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Kidney Transplantation / economics*
  • Kidney Transplantation / mortality
  • Male
  • Markov Chains
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / economics
  • Renal Dialysis / economics*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate
  • Tissue Donors*