Statistical Look at the Transplant List

I really like math and I’m beginning to realize that there is no such thing as “average” or “normal” when it comes to health. You can look at “median” and groups of people, but it falls apart when you look at individuals. Just like the stock market – the general trend goes up, but timing stock purchases is difficult / impossible.

I am one of the statistics. A single point. Yet I try to look at the general trend and forecast my future. If you’re interested in a little tour through some statistics, read on.  If not, don’t worry, Logan cringes at the thought of story problems too.

Based on the 2011 Liver Transplant Annual Report I looked at the outcome of people on the transplant list. Eventually, everyone comes off the list one way or another – it may not be in the first year.  So, the numbers below add up to 100%:

  • 56% Have a deceased  donor transplant (37% in year 1, 13% in year 2, 4% in year 3, …)
  • 2% Have a live donor transplant
  • 24% Die before having a transplant
  • 4% Become too sick to receive a transplant
  • 1% Refuse Treatment
  • 6% Improve and are no longer on the Transplant list (maybe re-entering the transplant process later)
  • 8% ‘Other’ and removed from transplant list

Using a little rounding, 60% are transplanted (56%+2%), and 30% (24%+4%) die.  Reminder:  This is Livers only (not all organ transplants)

Let’s use the up-to-date statistics on this website to see what a ‘median’ transplant listing looks like compared to me.

  • In Region 1 (New England) there are 844 people listed for Liver Transplants
    • Disease (not all are listed)
      • 32% (268) have Hepatitis C
      • 25% (211) have Alcoholic Cirrhosis
      • 5% (41) have PSC or PBC [ME]
    • Age
      • 82% (689) are > 50 Years Old
      • 16% (134) are between 18 and 49 [ME]
      • 2% (22) are <18 Years Old
    • MELD Score
      • 12% (103) MELD > 24
      • 12% (97) MELD between 19 and 24
      • 27% (233) MELD between 11 and 18 [ME]
      • 25% (211) MELD < 10
      • 24% (200) are Inactive
    • Blood Type
      • 44% (373) O
      • 41% (350) A
      • 12% (99) B [ME]
      • 3% (22) AB

Summary: The majority of transplant listings have Alcoholic Cirrhosis and/or Hepatitis C. They are also over the age of 50 and have a blood type of O or A.

Can I attach a number to where I am on the transplant list? Only 99 people are of Blood Type B and that’s who I am really “competing with”. Of those, about 49% are MELD < 10 or inactive, and we can estimate another 11% are MELD 11 to 14.  This is a total of 60% that are beneath me.  So I might be number 40 on the waiting list.  This really varies based on fit and other non-mathematical properties when a deceased liver is matched.

Maybe I should stop the madness and just quote The Prisoner: “I am not a number?”

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