Liver transplantation and waitlist mortality for HCC and non-HCC candidates following the 2015 HCC exception policy change

Tanveen Ishaque, Allan B. Massie, Mary G. Bowring, Christine E. Haugen, Jessica M. Ruck, Samantha E. Halpern, Madeleine M. Waldram, Macey L. Henderson, Jacqueline M. Garonzik Wang, Andrew M. Cameron, Benjamin Philosophe, Shane Ottmann, Anne F. Rositch, Dorry L. Segev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Historically, exception points for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) led to higher transplant rates and lower waitlist mortality for HCC candidates compared to non-HCC candidates. As of October 2015, HCC candidates must wait 6 months after initial application to obtain exception points; the impact of this policy remains unstudied. Using 2013-2017 SRTR data, we identified 39 350 adult, first-time, active waitlist candidates and compared deceased donor liver transplant (DDLT) rates and waitlist mortality/dropout for HCC versus non-HCC candidates before (October 8, 2013-October 7, 2015, prepolicy) and after (October 8, 2015-October 7, 2017, postpolicy) the policy change using Cox and competing risks regression, respectively. Compared to non-HCC candidates with the same calculated MELD, HCC candidates had a 3.6-fold higher rate of DDLT prepolicy (aHR = 3.49 3.69 3.89) and a 2.2-fold higher rate of DDLT postpolicy (aHR = 2.09 2.21 2.34). Compared to non-HCC candidates with the same allocation priority, HCC candidates had a 37% lower risk of waitlist mortality/dropout prepolicy (asHR = 0.54 0.63 0.73) and a comparable risk of mortality/dropout postpolicy (asHR = 0.81 0.95 1.11). Following the policy change, the DDLT advantage for HCC candidates remained, albeit dramatically attenuated, without any substantial increase in waitlist mortality/dropout. In the context of sickest-first liver allocation, the revised policy seems to have established allocation equity for HCC and non-HCC candidates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-572
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • cancer/malignancy/neoplasia
  • clinical research/practice
  • disparities
  • graft survival
  • liver disease: malignant
  • liver transplantation/hepatology
  • organ allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Transplantation
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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