Liver allocation and distribution: time for a change

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Liver allograft allocation has been a topic of hot debate for over a decade. New redistricting changes have been proposed by the Liver and Intestinal Transplant Committee to the existing United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) liver allocation policy. The basis of this new proposal is similar to the old one with an aim to distribute organs in a fair, efficient and equitable fashion. In this review, we plan to look in depth at the redistribution proposals thus far, their merits and how they may help patients who do not have adequate access to livers.

Recent findings

Many authors have criticized the proposed changes to organ distribution to reduce geographic disparity in access to liver transplantation. Our focus in this article is to bring forth the most recent literature and proposed changes in the current distribution system. We will also mention two other possible methods that have been proposed to redesign distribution using concentric circles and neighborhoods. In this article, we also look at the economics of the redistricting proposal and its effects on transplant centers.

Summary

The UNOS Liver and Intestinal Transplant Committee has recommended a proposal using the eight-district model with proximity circles and three additional Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) points with initial sharing MELD threshold of 25 as a starting point to reduce disparity in patient access to deceased donor livers for transplantation. This proposal has met with significant resistance because of concerns of cost, logistics and impact on existing transplant centers. Other methodologies have also been proposed that have the potential to significantly improve our current disparity of access to life-saving organs. Variation in the supply of donor organs vs. the demand or need for liver transplant by geography and the current defined areas of distribution drive this disparity. Cost benefits to the healthcare system in caring for patients with advanced stages of liver disease may outweigh increased costs of transportation and transplantation. The current allocation boundaries are not optimal for liver distribution, as modeled by all suggested solutions thus far. The need to identify a more optimal and equitable allocation/distribution system is paramount.

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