Racial, Gender, and Socioeconomic Disparities in Liver Transplantation

Abstract [from journal]

Liver transplantation (LT) is a life-saving therapy; therefore, equitable distribution of this scarce resource is of paramount importance. We searched contemporary literature on racial, gender, and socioeconomic disparities across the LT care cascade in referral, waitlisting practices, allocation, and post-LT care. We subsequently identified gaps in the literature and future research priorities. Studies found that racial and ethnic minorities (Black and Hispanic patients) have lower rates of LT referral, more advanced liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma at diagnosis, and are less likely to undergo living donor liver transplantation (LDLT). Gender-based disparities were observed in waitlist mortality and LT allocation. Women have lower LT rates after waitlisting, with size mismatch accounting for much of the disparity. Medicaid insurance has been associated with higher rates of chronic liver disease and poor waitlist outcomes. After LT, some studies found lower overall survival among Black compared to White recipients. Studies have also shown lower literacy and limited educational attainment were associated with increased post-transplant complications and lower use of digital technology. However, there are notable gaps in the literature on disparities in LT. Detailed population-based estimates of the advanced liver disease burden, LT referral and evaluation practices, including for LDLT, are lacking. Similarly, little is known about LT disparities worldwide. Evidence-based strategies to improve access to care and reduce disparities have not been comprehensively identified. CONCLUSION: Prospective registries and alternative "real-world" databases can provide more detailed information on disease burden and clinical practices. Modeling and simulation studies can identify ways to reduce gender disparities due to size or inaccurate estimation of renal function. Mixed-methods studies and clinical trials should be conducted to reduce care disparities across the transplant continuum.