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Outcomes for liver transplant candidates listed with low model for end‐stage liver disease score

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The Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score, which estimates mortality within 90 days, determines priority for liver transplantation (LT). However, longer-term outcomes on the wait list for patients who are initially listed with low MELD scores are not well characterized. All adults listed for primary LT at a single, high-volume center from 2005 to 2012 with an initial laboratory MELD score of 22 or lower were evaluated. Excluded were those patients listed with MELD exception points who underwent living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) or transplantation at another center, or who were removed from the wait list for nonmedical reasons. Outcomes and causes of death were identified by United Network for Organ Sharing, the National Death Index, and an electronic medical record review. Multivariate competing risk analysis evaluated predictors of death compared to deceased donor liver transplantation (DDLT); 893 patients were listed from 2005 to 2012. By the end of follow-up, 27% had undergone DDLT, and 31% were removed from the wait list for death or clinical deterioration. In a competing risks assessment, only MELD score of 6-9, older age, lower serum albumin, lower body mass index, and diabetes conferred an increased risk of wait-list dropout compared to DDLT. Listing for simultaneous liver-kidney transplantation was protective against wait-list dropout. Of the patients included, 275 patients died or were delisted for being too sick; 87% of the identifiable causes of death were directly related to end-stage liver disease or hepatocellular carcinoma. In conclusion, patients with low listing MELD scores remain at a significant risk for death due to liver-related causes and may benefit from early access to transplantation, such as LDLT or acceptance of high-risk donor livers. Predictors of death compared to transplantation may allow for early identification of patients who are at risk for wait-list mortality.

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