Assessing variation in the costs of care among patients awaiting liver transplantation

D. A. Axelrod, N. Dzebisashvili, K. Lentine, D. L. Segev, R. Dickson, E. Tuttle-Newhall, R. Freeman, M. Schnitzler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Previous economic analyses of liver transplantation have focused on the cost of the transplant and subsequent care. Accurate characterization of the pretransplant costs, indexed to severity of illness, is needed to assess the economic burden of liver disease. A novel data set linking Medicare claims with transplant registry data for 15 710 liver transplant recipients was used to determine average monthly waitlist spending (N = 249 434 waitlist months) using multivariable linear regression models to adjust for recipient characteristics including Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score. Characteristics associated with higher spending included older age, female gender, hepatocellular carcinoma, diabetes, hypertension and increasing MELD score (p < 0.05 for all). Spending increased exponentially with severity of illness: expected monthly spending at a MELD score of 30 was 10 times higher than at MELD of 20 ($22 685 vs. $2030). Monthly spending within MELD strata also varied geographically. For candidates with a MELD score of 35, spending varied from $19 548 (region 10) to $36 099 (region 7). Regional variation in waitlist costs may reflect the impact of longer waiting times on greater pretransplant hospitalization rates among high MELD score patients. Reducing the number of high MELD waitlist patients through improved medical management and novel organ allocation systems could decrease total spending for end-stage liver care. Using a national cohort-linking registry and medical claims data, the authors find that the cost of end-stage liver care among patients awaiting liver transplant increases dramatically with changes in severity of illness. See editorial by Abouljoud et al on page 9.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-78
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Allocation
  • economic analysis
  • liver transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Transplantation
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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