Survival outcomes in liver transplant recipients with Model for End-stage Liver Disease scores of 40 or higher: a decade-long experience

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The Model for End-stage Liver Disease (MELD) has been used as a prognostic tool since 2002 to predict pre-transplant mortality. Increasing proportions of transplant candidates with higher MELD scores, combined with improvements in transplant outcomes, mandate the need to study surgical outcomes in patients with MELD scores of ≥40.


A retrospective longitudinal analysis of United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) data on all liver transplantations performed between February 2002 and June 2011 (n = 33 398) stratified by MELD score (<30, 30–39, ≥40) was conducted. The primary outcomes of interest were short- and longterm graft and patient survival. A Kaplan–Meier product limit method and Cox regression were used. A subanalysis using a futile population was performed to determine futility predictors.


Of the 33 398 transplant recipients analysed, 74% scored <30, 18% scored 30–39, and 8% scored ≥40 at transplantation. Recipients with MELD scores of ≥40 were more likely to be younger (P < 0.001), non-White and to have shorter waitlist times (P < 0.001). Overall patient survival correlated inversely with increasing MELD score; this trend was consistent for both short-term (30 days and 90 days) and longterm (1, 3 and 5 years) graft and patient survival. In multivariate analysis, increasing age, African-American ethnicity, donor obesity and diabetes were negative predictors of survival. Futility predictors included patient age of >60 years, obesity, peri-transplantation intensive care unit hospitalization with ventilation, and multiple comorbidities.


Liver transplantation in recipients with MELD scores of ≥40 offers acceptable longterm survival outcomes. Futility predictors indicate the need for prospective follow-up studies to define the population to gain the highest benefit from this precious resource.

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