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J Heart Lung Transplant. 2000 Sep;19(9):846-51.

Lung allocation in the United States, 1995-1997: an analysis of equity and utility.

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Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.



Waiting time for organ transplantation varies widely between programs of different sizes and by geographic regions. The purpose of this study was to determine if the current lung-allocation policy is equitable for candidates waiting at various-sized centers, and to model how national allocation based solely on waiting time might affect patients and programs.


UNOS provided data on candidate registrations; transplants and outcomes; waiting times; and deaths while waiting for all U.S. lung-transplant programs during 1995-1997. Transplant centers were categorized based on average yearly volume: small (< or = 10 pounds sterling transplants/year; n = 46), medium (11-30 transplants/year; n = 29), or large (>30 transplants/year; n = 6). This data was used to model national organ allocation based solely on accumulated waiting time for candidates listed at the end of 1997.


Median waiting time for patients transplanted was longest at large programs (724-848 days) compared to small and medium centers (371-552 days and 337-553 days, respectively) and increased at programs of all sizes during the study period. Wait-time-adjusted risk of death correlated inversely with program size (365 vs 261 vs 148 deaths per 1,000 patient-years-at-risk at small, medium, and large centers, respectively). Mortality as a percentage of new candidate registrations was similar for all program categories, ranging from 21 to 25%. Survival rates following transplantation were equivalent at medium-sized centers vs large centers (p = 0.50), but statistically lower when small centers were compared to either large- or medium-size centers (p < or = 0.05). Using waiting time as the primary criterion lung allocation would acutely shift 10 to 20% of lung-transplant activity from medium to large programs.


1) Waiting list mortality rates are not higher at large lung-transplant programs with long average waiting times. 2) A lung-allocation algorithm based primarily on waiting-list seniority would probably disadvantage candidates at medium-size centers without improving overall lung-transplant outcomes. 3) If fairness is measured by equal distribution of opportunity and risk, we conclude that the current allocation system is relatively equitable for patients currently entering the lung-transplant system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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