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JAMA. 2004 Apr 21;291(15):1871-4.

MELD scores of liver transplant recipients according to size of waiting list: impact of organ allocation and patient outcomes.

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Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO 80262, USA.



The Model for Endstage Liver Disease (MELD) score serves as the basis for the distribution of deceased-donor (DD) livers and was developed in response to "the final rule" mandate, whose stated principle is to allocate livers according to a patient's medical need, with less emphasis on keeping organs in the local procurement area. However, in selected areas of the United States, organs are kept in organ procurement organizations (OPOs) with small waiting lists and transplanted into less-sick patients instead of being allocated to sicker patients in nearby transplant centers in OPOs with large waiting lists.


To determine whether there is a difference in MELD scores for liver transplant recipients receiving transplants in small vs large OPOs.


Retrospective review of the US Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients between February 28, 2002, and March 31, 2003. Transplant recipients (N = 4798) had end-stage liver disease and received DD livers.


MELD score distribution (range, 6-40), graft survival, and patient survival for liver transplant recipients in small (<100) and large (> or =100 on the waiting list) OPOs.


The distribution of MELD scores was the same in large and small OPOs; 92% had a MELD score of 18 or less, 7% had a MELD score between 19 and 24, and only 2% of listed patients had a MELD score higher than 24 (P =.85). The proportion of patients receiving transplants in small OPOs and with a MELD score higher than 24 was significantly lower than that in large OPOs (19% vs 49%; P<.001). Patient survival rates at 1 year after transplantation for small OPOs (86.4%) and large OPOs (86.6%) were not statistically different (P =.59), and neither were graft survival rates in small OPOs (80.1%) and large OPOs (81.3%) (P =.80).


There is a significant disparity in MELD scores in liver transplant recipients in small vs large OPOs; fewer transplant recipients in small OPOs have severe liver disease (MELD score >24). This disparity does not reflect the stated goals of the current allocation policy, which is to distribute livers according to a patient's medical need, with less emphasis on keeping organs in the local procurement area.

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