Sex-based Disparities in Access to Liver Transplantation for Waitlisted Patients With Model for End-stage Liver Disease Score of 40

Ann Surg. 2024 Jan 1;279(1):112-118. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000005933. Epub 2023 Jun 27.


Objective: To determine the association of sex with access to liver transplantation among candidates with the highest possible model for end-stage liver disease score (MELD 40).

Background: Women with end-stage liver disease are less likely than men to receive liver transplantation due in part to MELD's underestimation of renal dysfunction in women. The extent of the sex-based disparity among patients with high disease severity and equally high MELD scores is unclear.

Methods: Using national transplant registry data, we compared liver offer acceptance (offers received at match MELD 40) and waitlist outcomes (transplant vs death/delisting) by sex for 7654 waitlisted liver transplant candidates from 2009 to 2019 who reached MELD 40. Multivariable logistic and competing-risks regression was used to estimate the association of sex with the outcome and adjust for the candidate and donor factors.

Results: Women (N = 3019, 39.4%) spent equal time active at MELD 40 (median: 5 vs 5 days, P = 0.28) but had lower offer acceptance (9.2% vs 11.0%, P < 0.01) compared with men (N = 4635, 60.6%). Adjusting for candidate/donor factors, offers to women were less likely accepted (odds ratio = 0.87, P < 0.01). Adjusting for candidate factors, once they reached MELD 40, women were less likely to be transplanted (subdistribution hazard ratio = 0.90, P < 0.01) and more likely to die or be delisted (subdistribution hazard ratio = 1.14, P = 0.02).

Conclusions: Even among candidates with high disease severity and equally high MELD scores, women have reduced access to liver transplantation and worse outcomes compared with men. Policies addressing this disparity should consider factors beyond MELD score adjustments alone.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • End Stage Liver Disease* / complications
  • End Stage Liver Disease* / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tissue Donors
  • Waiting Lists