Liver transplantation cost in the model for end-stage liver disease era: Looking beyond the transplant admission

Paula Buchanan, Nino Dzebisashvili, Krista L. Lentine, David A. Axelrod, Mark A. Schnitzler, Paolo R. Salvalaggio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


We examined the relationship between the total cost incurred by liver transplantation (LT) recipients and their Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score at the time of transplant. We used a novel database linking billing claims from a large private payer with the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network registry. Included were adults who underwent LT from March 2002 through August 2007 (n = 990). Claims within the year preceding and following transplantation were analyzed according to the recipient's calculated MELD score. Cost was the primary endpoint and was assessed by the length of stay and charges. Transplant admission charges represented approximately 50% of the total cost of LT. MELD was a significant cost driver for pretransplant, transplant, and total charges. A MELD score of 28 to 40 was associated with additional charges of $349,213 (P < 0.05) in comparison with a score of 15 to 20. Pretransplant and transplant admission charges were higher by $152,819 (P < 0.05) and $64,286 (P < 0.05), respectively, in this higher MELD group. No differences by MELD score were found for posttransplant charges. Those in the highest MELD group also experienced longer hospital stays both in the pretransplant period and at the time of LT but did not have higher rates of re-admissions. In conclusion, high-MELD patients incur significantly higher costs prior to and at the time of LT. Following LT, the MELD score is not a significant predictor of cost or re-admission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1270-1277
Number of pages8
JournalLiver Transplantation
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Hepatology
  • Transplantation


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