Effect of recipient age on prioritisation for liver transplantation in the UK: a population-based modelling study

Anthony Attia, Jamie Webb, Katherine Connor, Chris J C Johnston, Michael Williams, Tim Gordon-Walker, Ian A Rowe, Ewen M Harrison, Ben M Stutchfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Following the introduction of an algorithm aiming to maximise life-years gained from liver transplantation in the UK (the transplant benefit score [TBS]), donor livers were redirected from younger to older patients, mortality rate equalised across the age range and short-term waiting list mortality reduced. Understanding age-related prioritisation has been challenging, especially for younger patients and clinicians allocating non-TBS-directed livers. We aimed to assess age-related prioritisation within the TBS algorithm by modelling liver transplantation prioritisation based on data from a UK transplant unit and comparing these data with other regions.

METHODS: In this population-based modelling study, serum parameters and age at liver transplantation assessment of patients attending the Scottish Liver Transplant Unit, Edinburgh, UK, between December, 2002, and November, 2023, were combined with representative synthetic data to model TBS survival predictions, which were compared according to age group (25-49 years vs ≥60 years), chronic liver disease severity, and disease cause. Models for end-stage liver disease (UKELD [UK], MELD [Eurotransplant region], and MELD 3.0 [USA]) were used as validated comparators of liver disease severity.

FINDINGS: Of 2093 patients with chronic liver disease, 1808 (86%) had complete datasets and liver disease parameters consistent with eligibility for the liver transplant waiting list in the UK (UKELD ≥49). Disease severity as assessed by UKELD, MELD, and MELD 3.0 did not differ by age (median UKELD scores of 56 for patients aged ≥60 years vs 56 for patients aged 25-49 years; MELD scores of 16 vs 16; and MELD 3.0 scores of 18 vs 18). TBS increased with advancing age (R=0·45, p<0·0001). TBS predicted that transplantation in patients aged 60 years or older would provide a two-fold greater net benefit at 5 years than in patients aged 25-49 years (median TBS 1317 [IQR 1116-1436] in older patients vs 706 [411-1095] in younger patients; p<0·0001). Older patients were predicted to have shorter survival without transplantation than younger patients (263 days [IQR 144-473] in older patients vs 861 days [448-1164] in younger patients; p<0·0001) but similar survival after transplantation (1599 days [1563-1628] vs 1573 days [1525-1614]; p<0·0001). Older patients could reach a TBS for which a liver offer was likely below minimum criteria for transplantation (UKELD <49), whereas many younger patients were required to have high-urgent disease (UKELD >60). US and Eurotransplant programmes did not prioritise according to age.

INTERPRETATION: The UK liver allocation algorithm prioritises older patients for transplantation by predicting that advancing age increases the benefit from liver transplantation. Restricted follow-up and biases in waiting list data might limit the accuracy of these benefit predictions. Measures beyond overall waiting list mortality are required to fully capture the benefits of liver transplantation.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e346-e355
Number of pages10
JournalThe Lancet Healthy Longevity
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation/mortality
  • Middle Aged
  • Adult
  • United Kingdom/epidemiology
  • Male
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Waiting Lists
  • End Stage Liver Disease/surgery
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Transplant Recipients/statistics & numerical data


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