Practice Changes at U.S. Transplant Centers After the New Adult Heart Allocation Policy

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 Jun 16;75(23):2906-2916. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.01.066.


Background: In October 2018, the U.S. heart allocation system expanded the number of priority "status" tiers from 3 to 6 and added cardiogenic shock requirements for some heart transplant candidates listed with specific types of treatments.

Objectives: This study sought to determine the impact of the new policy on the treatment practices of transplant centers.

Methods: Initial listing data on all adult heart candidates listed from December 1, 2017 to April 30, 2019 were collected from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. The status-qualifying treatments (or exception requests) and hemodynamic values at listing of a post-policy cohort (December 2018 to April 2019) were compared with a seasonally matched pre-policy cohort (December 2017 to April 2018). Candidates in the pre-policy cohort were reclassified into the new priority system statuses by using treatment, diagnosis, and hemodynamics.

Results: Comparing the post-policy cohort (N = 1,567) with the pre-policy cohort (N = 1,606), there were significant increases in listings with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (+1.2%), intra-aortic balloon pumps (+ 4 %), and exceptions (+ 12%). Listings with low-dose inotropes (-18%) and high-dose inotropes (-3%) significantly decreased. The new priority status distribution had more status 2 (+14%) candidates than expected and fewer status 3 (-5%), status 4 (- 4%) and status 6 (-8%) candidates than expected (p values <0.01 for all comparisons).

Conclusions: After implementation of the new heart allocation policy, transplant centers listed more candidates with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, intra-aortic balloon pumps, and exception requests and fewer candidates with inotrope therapy than expected, thus leading to significantly more high-priority status listings than anticipated. If these early trends persist, the new allocation system may not function as intended.

Keywords: allocation; ethics; heart transplantation.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiotonic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / therapy*
  • Heart Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Intra-Aortic Balloon Pumping
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*
  • Waiting Lists*


  • Cardiotonic Agents