Impact of Socioeconomic Position on Access to the U.S. Lung Transplant Waiting List in a Matched Cystic Fibrosis Cohort

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2020 Nov;17(11):1384-1392. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.202001-030OC.


Rationale: Referrals for lung transplant and transplant rates in the United States are lower than in Canada for patients with advanced cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease. Further study of factors limiting access are needed to optimize referral and transplant for this population.Objectives: To determine the effect of socioeconomic position, while accounting for disease severity, on the likelihood of wait-listing for lung transplant in the United States.Methods: A case-control study of 3,110 patients (1,555 wait-listed, 1,555 never wait-listed) in the linked CF Foundation Patient Registry/Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients was performed with 1:1 matching for age, forced expiratory volume in 1 second, and year. Logistic regression was performed with univariate and multivariate analyses accounting for eight clinical factors (sex, oxygen use, body mass index, hemoptysis, forced vital capacity, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and i.v. antibiotic days) and six socioeconomic factors (race, marital status, education, health insurance, median zip code income, and distance to transplant program). The CF Health Score and Socioeconomic Barrier Score were created based on summation of variables. Interactions between scores were calculated.Results: We found an inverse relationship between the probability of wait-listing and CF Health Score and Socioeconomic Barrier Score. As the CF Health Score decreased (less healthy), the probability of wait-listing increased by 69.3% from a score of 7 to 2. As the Socioeconomic Barrier Score decreased (fewer barriers), the probability of wait-listing increased by 31.7% from a score of ≥5 to 1). Regardless of illness severity, socioeconomic barriers presented an impediment to wait-listing. Individuals with higher Socioeconomic Barrier Scores accessed transplant about half as often as those with lower scores at the same level of medical severity. Analysis of interactions demonstrated a higher probability of wait-listing for individuals with moderate health severity and fewer social barriers compared with sicker individuals with more socioeconomic barriers.Conclusions: Accrual of socioeconomic barriers limits access to lung transplant irrespective of disease severity, a finding of substantial concern for patients with CF and for transplant providers. Future interventions can focus on this at-risk population early in the disease course.

Keywords: cystic fibrosis; socioeconomic position; transplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cystic Fibrosis* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Lung Transplantation*
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus*
  • United States
  • Waiting Lists