Center-Level Variation in Transplant Rates Following the Heart Allocation Policy Change.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

JAMA Cardiol


washington; swedish; swedish heart


Importance: Wide state-level variability in waiting list outcomes have been noted for patients listed for heart transplant in the US, but little is known regarding center-level transplant rates since the heart allocation policy change.

Objective: To evaluate center-level transplant rates following the recent allocation policy change for heart transplant.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study used data from the United Network for Organ Sharing database from October 18, 2015, to March 1, 2020, for a nationwide analysis of transplant centers in the US. Transplant candidates were stratified into 2 time cohorts, with era 1 denoting the 3-year period before the policy change (October 18, 2018), and era 2 representing the 500-day period after the policy change but before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were analyzed from May to June 2021.

Exposure: The heart allocation policy change enacted on October 18, 2018.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Competing risk regression for waiting list outcomes was performed to calculate adjusted era 1 and era 2 center-level transplant rates. Rates were compared across regions and states, as well as within organ procurement organizations. Pearson correlation coefficient was used to assess center-level factors associated with era 2 transplant rates.

Results: Of 15 940 transplant candidates included for analysis, 5063 (median [IQR] age, 56 [45-63] years; 1385 women [27.4%]) comprised the era 2 cohort. The proportion of patients with temporary mechanical circulatory support increased between era 1 and era 2 (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, 2.00% vs 3.42%; percutaneous ventricular assist device, 0.66% vs 1.86%; intra-aortic balloon pump, 5.21% vs 13.10%). The adjusted mean center-level likelihood of transplant increased after the rule change (from 48.1% in era 1 to 78.0% in era 2). Significant variation in transplant rates was observed across regions and states even among centers with shared organ procurement organizations. The largest absolute difference in transplant rates was 27.1% for 2 centers belonging to the same organ procurement organization. Centers with higher transplant volumes in era 2 and with a greater proportion of candidates with intra-aortic balloon pump were observed to have higher transplant rates.

Conclusions and Relevance: Despite sharing organ supply and having a small geographical distance, these findings suggest that intercenter disparities in the likelihood of transplant have persisted following the heart allocation policy change. Further work is necessary to ensure equitable allocation of organs in heart transplant.

Clinical Institute

Cardiovascular (Heart)