Background: The national organ allocation system for deceased-donor kidney transplant will endure increased burden as the waitlist expands and organ shortage persists. The Department of Health and Human Services issued the "Final Rule" in 1998 that states "Organs and tissues ought to be distributed on the basis of objective priority criteria and not on the basis of accidents of geography." However, it has not been addressed whether the rule was effective in encouraging regions to share the additional burden equitably.
Objective: To assess the significance of changes of geographic disparities for four metrics since the rule's adoption: waiting times, transplant rates, pretransplant mortality, and organ quality.
Methods: Using Organ Procurement and Transplant Network data from 1988 through 2009, annual ranges of the metrics were calculated for all donor service areas and United Network for Organ Sharing regions. Time series analyses were used to compare the metrics before and after the enactment of the Final Rule.
Results: A total of 412,127 kidney transplant candidates and 178,163 deceased-donor recipients were analyzed. Demographics varied significantly by region. The ranges of the four metrics have worsened by approximately 30% or more after the Final Rule at both the regional and donor service area levels.
Conclusion: Increasing geographic disparity in allocation procedures may yield diverging outcomes and experiences in different locations for otherwise similar candidates. Consensus for measuring allocation discrepancies and policy interventions are required to mitigate the inequities.