Racial disparities in patient survival after liver transplantation in the United States

Natasha Sarkari Becker, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. Racial disparities in healthcare span such areas as access, outcomes after procedures, and patient satisfaction. Previous work suggested that minorities experience less healthcare and worse survival rates. In adult orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) mixed results have been reported, with some showing African-American recipients having poor survival compared to Caucasians, and others finding no such discrepancy. Purpose. This study’s purpose was to analyze the most recent United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) data, both before and after the implementation of the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD)/Pediatric End-Stage Liver Disease (PELD) scoring system, to determine if minority racial groups still experience poor outcomes after OLT. Methods. The UNOS dataset for 1992-2001 (Era I) and 2002-2007 (Era II) was used. Patient survival rates for each Era and for adult and pediatric recipients were analyzed with adjustment. A separate multivariate analysis was performed on African-American adult patients in Era II in order to identify unique predictors for poor patient survival. Results. The overall study included 66,118 OLT recipients. The majority were Caucasian (78%), followed by Hispanics (13%) and African-Americans (9%). Hispanic and African-American adults were more likely to be female, have Hepatitis C, to be in the intensive care unit (ICU) or ventilated at time of OLT, to have a MELD score ≥23, to have a lower education level, and to have public insurance when compared to Caucasian adults (all p-values < 0.05). Hispanic and African-American pediatric recipients were more likely have public insurance and less likely to receive a living donor OLT than were Caucasian pediatric OLT recipients (p <0.05). There was no difference in the likelihood of having a PELD score ≥21 among racial groups (p >0.40). African-American adults in Era I and Era II had worse patient survival rates than both Caucasians and Hispanic (pair-wise p-values <0.05). This same disparity was seen for pediatric recipients in Era I, but not in Era II. Multivariate analysis of African-American recipients revealed no unique predictors of patient death. Conclusions. African-American race is still a predictor of poor outcome after adult OLT, even after adjustment for multiple clinical, demographic, and liver disease severity variables. Although African-American and Hispanic subgroups share many characteristics previously thought to increase risk of post-OLT death, only African-American patients have poor survival rates when compared to Caucasians.

Subject Area

Black studies|Public health|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Becker, Natasha Sarkari, "Racial disparities in patient survival after liver transplantation in the United States" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1458017.