Background: The strong competition for scarce renal graft resources jeopardizes an individual patient's chances of a transplantation within a reasonable time scale. This study was undertaken to quantify these chances of receiving a transplant.
Methods: All patients registered for their first renal allograft between January 1980 and December 1993 (n=40,636) in Eurotransplant were selected. The influence of patient characteristics, such as age, HLA phenotype frequency, % panel-reactive antibodies, period of registration, and ABO blood group, on the waiting list outflow was studied. The competing risk method was applied, and Poisson models were built to estimate the risk factor effects.
Results: The chance of transplantation within 10 years after registration was overestimated by Kaplan-Meier (84%); using the competing risk method it was only 74%. The predicted chance for death on the waiting list was overestimated by 33% (45% Kaplan-Meier vs. 12% competing risk). A time-varying covariate effect on the chances of waiting list outflow was observed. Favorable factors for quick transplantation, such as blood group AB or a common HLA phenotype, were no longer seen to be driving forces for transplantation once 5 to 6 years of waiting time had been accrued.
Conclusion: When multiple outcomes exist, Kaplan-Meier estimates should not be interpreted as survival rates, while competing risk estimates yield appropriate chances. A significantly decaying effect of the usual allocation parameters is observed with ongoing waiting time. This phenomenon is the statistical basis for redesigning allocation strategies. Organ exchange algorithms should have the potential to adapt to these time-varying effects.