Between-center variation in high-priority listing status under the new heart allocation policy

Am J Transplant. 2021 Nov;21(11):3684-3693. doi: 10.1111/ajt.16614. Epub 2021 May 5.


Under the new US heart allocation policy, transplant centers listed significantly more candidates at high priority statuses (Status 1 and 2) with mechanical circulatory support devices than expected. We determined whether the practice change was widespread or concentrated among certain transplant centers. Using data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, we used mixed-effect logistic regression to compare the observed listings of adult, heart-alone transplant candidates post-policy (December 2018 to February 2020) to seasonally matched pre-policy cohort (December 2016 to February 2018). US transplant centers (N = 96) listed similar number of candidates in each policy period (4472 vs. 4498) but listed significantly more at high priority status (25.5% vs. 7.0%, p < .001) than expected. Adjusted for candidate characteristics, 91 of 96 (94.8%) centers listed significantly more candidates at high-priority status than expected, with the unexpected increase varying from 4.8% to 50.4% (interquartile range [IQR]: 14.0%-23.3%). Centers in OPOs with highest Status 1A transplant rate pre-policy were significantly more likely to utilize high-priority status under the new policy (OR: 9.73, p = .01). The new heart allocation policy was associated with widespread and significantly variable changes in transplant center practice that may undermine the effectiveness of the new system.

Keywords: cardiology; ethics; heart transplantation; organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN); organ allocation; public policy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Heart Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Policy
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*
  • Transplant Recipients
  • Waiting Lists