Comparing Simultaneous Liver-Kidney Transplant Strategies: A Modified Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

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The proportion of patients with kidney failure at time of liver transplantation is at a historic high in the United States. The optimal timing of kidney transplantation with respect to the liver transplant is unknown.


We used a modified cost-effectiveness analysis to compare 4 strategies: the old system (“pre-OPTN”), the new Organ Procurement Transplant Network (OPTN) system since August 10, 2017 (“OPTN”), and 2 strategies which restrict simultaneous liver-kidney transplants (“safety net” and “stringent”). We measured “cost” by deployment of deceased donor kidneys (DDKs) to liver transplant recipients and effectiveness by life years (LYs) and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) in liver transplant recipients. We validated our model against Scientific Registry for Transplant Recipients data.


The OPTN, safety net and stringent strategies were on the efficiency frontier. By rank order, OPTN > safety net > stringent strategy in terms of LY, QALY, and DDK deployment. The pre-OPTN system was dominated, or outperformed, by all alternative strategies. The incremental LY per DDK between the strategies ranged from 1.30 to 1.85. The incremental QALY per DDK ranged from 1.11 to 2.03.


These estimates quantify the “organ”-effectiveness of various kidney allocation strategies for liver transplant candidates. The OPTN system will likely deliver better liver transplant outcomes at the expense of more frequent deployment of DDKs to liver transplant recipients.

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