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Before the change, 810 blacks, or 49 percent of those on the waiting list, got transplants. Meanwhile, 10,202 whites, or 52 percent of those on the list, got transplants.
In the years after the change, 849 blacks, or 47 percent, got transplants compared to 8,492 whites, or 42 percent.
For women, MELD wasn't an improvement. The study found women had a 30 percent greater chance of dying or becoming too sick for transplant with the new scoring system. The gender difference wasn't significant before.
One of the lab tests in the score may underestimate the severity of illness in women because of their smaller average size, said Dr. David Axelrod of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., who was not involved in the study, but wrote an accompanying editorial.
"With a relatively minimal change we can deal with that," Axelrod said, suggesting a different weight-adjusted measurement.
Earlier research showed MELD improved waiting list death rates overall without hurting post-transplant survival. The average wait time for a liver in 2006 was 16 months, according to the organ network.
Regional differences in waiting list times are still a big problem, said Dr. J. Michael Millis, head of transplantation at University of Chicago Medical Center. Donated organs are generally offered to local patients first. Some states with greater demand for organs have longer wait times.
"In Wisconsin, waiting time is approximately half that in Chicago 90 miles away," Millis said. "There's no rational way to justify that."
On the Net:
United Network for Organ Sharing: http://www.unos.org/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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