Orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) has been shown to be effective in prolonging life and improving its quality in patients with end-stage liver disease. However, it remains one of the most expensive surgical procedures performed today. In an era when economic efficiency and financial accountability are being emphasized, it is imperative to consider resource utilization in evaluating candidates for OLT. We prospectively followed 106 patients who underwent OLT at the Mayo Clinic for primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis between 1990 and 1994. Hospital and professional charges for the initial hospitalization were obtained on all patients. Univariate and multivariate models were constructed using preoperative clinical variables that had been previously found to be important in predicting clinical outcomes. The preoperative variables considered were age, gender, diagnosis of liver disease, Mayo risk score, Child's score, nutritional status, Karnofsky score, INR, serum levels of albumin, bilirubin, and creatinine, and the presence/absence of ascites, edema, encephalopathy, renal failure (serum creatinine >2.0) and gastrointestinal bleeding. Of the 106 patients, 3 were excluded from the analysis because they received multiple transplants during the initial hospitalization. Of the hospital charges we analyzed, the surgical fee for transplantation and donor acquisition expense were fixed in advance and, therefore, excluded. The following preoperative variables were found to be significant in the univariate analysis: Mayo risk score, Child's score, nutritional status, Karnofsky score, INR, serum levels of bilirubin and creatinine, presence of renal failure, and gastrointestinal bleeding. In the multivariate analyses, Karnofsky score of 40 or less was associated with a 48% increase in total charges. Poor nutritional status and renal failure were associated with a 34% and 31% increase, respectively. We identified 3 preoperative variables as significant independent predictors of resource utilization in liver transplantation. In an effort to maximize the economic efficiency with which liver transplantation is performed, we believe these factors should be taken into consideration in determining both the timing of transplantation and the suitability of potential transplant recipients.
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