Deceased donor allocation system has not been a major concern in Korea, because LDLT has been prevalent. Current Korean liver allocation system adopted the previous UNOS system, which utilizes CTP score-based system. However, it comprises a couple of subjective factors such as ascites and encephalopathy, therefore, it can be easily manipulated for the purpose of allocation. Furthermore, in Status 2B category, non-medical factors such as waiting time and center incentive determined the order of allocation in current Korean allocation system. As the DDLT is increasing in Korea, there is an argument that the current allocation system needs to be changed into more objective system such as MELD score-based system. Medical environment of Korea is somewhat different from the Western. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) related liver disease is more prevalent and LDLT is more prevalent. Therefore, it is necessary to evaluate the feasibility of MELD system in Korea compared with the current allocation system by analyzing Korean database.
There have been some studies about the feasibility of MELD score in Korea. However, most of them were about the prognosis after resection or prognosis of the patients with cirrhosis. Song et al. (11
) showed that MELD score was better predictive factor of early mortality after resection for patients with HCC and cirrhotic liver than CTP score irrespective of etiology of cirrhosis. Kim et al. (12
) also showed the MELD-Na and MELD score was superior to CTP score for prediction of early mortality for patients with cirrhosis. Hwang et al. (8
) suggested the MELD system as a solution for allocation dilemma (Status 1 vs Status 2A) in cases of HBV related fulminant hepatitis. However, there have been no Korean studies about the usefulness of MELD score system for prediction of early mortality after registration for DDLT.
The definition of KONOS Status 2A is the life expectancy of 1 week or so without LT. So far, those patients of Status 2A have had priority of deceased donor liver over the patients of other status according to this definition. This study, however, did not show the early mortality corresponding to the definition. One month mortality of Status 2A patients was relatively low. Only 12.7% of patients among Status 2A patients were dead at 1 month after registration and they also showed low mortality rate 29.8%, 33.8% at 3 and 6 months respectively. Because of relatively higher incidence of LDLT in Korea, the mortality could be lower than the United States. However, compared with relatively higher mortality rate in highest MELD score (34.8% of one month mortality in MELD≥31), the one month mortality rate of current Status 2A (12.7%) is too low in contrast to the definition. The risk of mortality in Status 2B group was also relatively low compared with that of intermediate MELD score group ( & ). Therefore, current allocation system does not reflect the risk of early mortality after registration correctly. Furthermore, short term mortality can be stratified by MELD score among Status 2A group (). One month mortality was 35.1% in patients with MELD score more than 31 among Status 2B, which is higher than that of general Status 2A patients (12.7%) (). Thus, we might have overestimated some patients with low actual risk of mortality and we also have overlooked some patients with high actual risk of mortality in the current allocation system. Therefore, we can conclude that MELD system is better than the current allocation system to stratify the survival during waiting in Korea.
In the current system, if there is no Status 1 patient in the waiting list, deceased liver allocates to the Status 2A recipients in the same region first, and then if no candidate in the same region, it extends to whole nation before seeking Status 2B patient in the same region. In this study, we tried to find the optimal cut-off to apply this nation-wide extension policy in Status 2A if MELD system is applied. In the United States, it is 35 and 15 point (13
). According to our analysis, 31 point seems appropriate to differentiate one month survival. However, 24 point seems more appropriate to differentiate 3-month survival. Furthermore, the proportion of patients (MELD≥24) group was 26.7%, which was similar with that of the current Status 2A (20.8%). Therefore, 31 and/or 24 point seemed appropriate cut-offs to differentiate allocation policy in Korea.
Optimal allocation means 'more livers to sicker patients', however, short-term post-operative mortality might be increased after this strategy. The actual short term outcome has been reported not to be changed compared with the previous outcome according to UNOS/OPTN analysis. Instead, waiting list mortality was reduced (14
). There have been several efforts of validation after adoption of MELD based system in the United States (15
). And further studies are ongoing for refinement of MELD score-based system (4
). Biselli et al. (4
) reported that MELD-Na and integrated MELD were the best prognostic models after comparing 6 score systems. Validation and modification should also be followed if MELD system is adopted in Korea.
Another issue is the exceptional situations such as HCC and hepatopulmaonary syndrome and so on in which MELD based allocation is not applicable (18
). We need another study to identify optimal exceptional indication in Korea.
One of the limitations of this study is that we assumed that all mortality was related with hepatic failure. The non-liver failure related mortality such as HCC progression was not considered in this study. However, the tumor biology of the patients in waiting list was usually good because no additional point for HCC in the current listing rule and therefore, the reason for DDLT listing was mainly liver dysfunction in Korea.
In conclusion, MELD score-based system is better than CTP score-based system in that it uses objective data and it can predict short-term mortality better. Therefore, we expect that more number of high risk patients can receive DDLT and thus, dropout rate will be decreased by adopting MELD score-based system in Korea. The current CTP score-based system should be changed into the MELD score-based system in Korea. However, nation-wide study is needed to make concrete conclusion.