While the number of patients listed for liver transplant has increased, the pool of donor organs has remained constant. Questions have arisen regarding equitable access to organs. The purpose of this study was to analyze factors associated with access to liver transplantation (LT) using n large, population-based, hospital discharge database. The primary hypothesis was that a variety of factors other than medical need could be associated with access to LT. The rate of LT was defined as the number of liver transplants per admission for liver disease. The data sources were selected to allow a population-based, time-series analysis of all patients admitted with liver disease and those receiving liver transplants in all 157 nonfederal hospitals in North Carolina from 1988 to 1993. The hypotheses of this study were that age, gender, payment source, type of liver disease, distance from the transplant center, and rural county of residence were associated with patients' likelihood of access to LT. During the six years studied, 56, 803 patients were admitted with liver disease and 128 underwent liver transplantation (LT). The rate of LT increased from 0.07% to 0.27%. Age, gender, source of payment, type of liver disease, rural county of residence, and distance of residence from the transplant center were associated with rates of transplantation. In the multivariate model, source of payment appeared to have the strongest association with the likelihood of LT. These findings raise important questions associated with equitable access to health care, need for physician education, and transplant center regionalization.
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