"Average" Waiting Time

How long will I wait for my transplant?

It is natural for transplant candidates to ask how long they will wait before undergoing transplant. Many candidate characteristics influence the likelihood of receiving an organ offer, and the number and types of organs offered to the transplant program may be largely out of its control. Thus, predicting how long any individual candidate will wait is difficult. Furthermore, how long candidates waited in the past may not accurately reflect how long candidates added to the waiting list today will wait. Given these caveats, SRTR provides some metrics about waiting time that may be helpful to transplant candidates.

Percentage undergoing transplant within a certain timeframe from listing

In each program's summary metrics, you will find the percentage of candidates who underwent transplant within 30 days, one year, two years, and three years from listing. This percentage is calculated using a historic group of candidates who were listed at the program; it is the number of candidates who underwent transplant at the program within 30 days, one year, two years, and three years divided by the number of candidates added to the waiting list. To put these numbers in context, SRTR also provides the percentages for all candidates nationally. Many factors influence an individual candidate’s chance of receiving an organ offer; for example, candidates with certain blood types are more or less likely to find suitable donors due to the percentages of people with those blood types in the general population. Thus, we provide breakdowns of these numbers by certain patient characteristics in each program’s full program-specific report.

Estimating "average" waiting time

Many candidates ask "What is the average waiting time at the program where I am listed?" This question can be addressed in two ways:

  1. What was the average waiting time for patients who underwent transplant in the past, for example, last year?
  2. How long did it take for 50% of candidates added to the waiting list in the past to undergo transplant?

These questions differ in important ways. The first gives information only for patients who actually underwent transplant. This could be misleading when trying to understand how long you may wait. Importantly, not all candidates undergo transplant because some die before undergoing transplant, and others may be removed from the waiting list because they become too sick to undergo transplant or recover such that transplant is no longer needed. Therefore, the second question is a better way to consider potential waiting times. SRTR presents metrics in each program's report showing the time by which 5%, 10%, 25%, 50%, and 75% of listed patients underwent transplant. For example, if the 25th percentile time to transplant is 10.5 months, 25% of the candidates listed at this program during the period had undergone transplant within 10.5 months of being listed. When calculating these numbers, SRTR uses candidates listed at the program in a recent six-year period. At the end of that six-year period, if that percentage of candidates has not yet undergone transplant at the program, that is, if fewer than 50% had undergone transplant at the end of the six years, the estimate will simply show "greater than 72 months" because we had a maximum observation time of 72 months.

What things should I keep in mind when considering waiting time?

While the estimates SRTR provides may be useful at a high level, we stress that many factors influence an individual candidate’s waiting time. For example, factors such as blood type and immune system sensitization to donor tissue influence the likelihood of a suitable donor being found. In addition, organ allocation policies dictate which candidates are offered organs first. For example, sicker liver candidates are offered livers first and kidney candidates with longer times on dialysis are offered kidneys first. Finally, some hospitals are located in areas of the country where more donors are available than in other areas. For these reasons, we encourage candidates to talk with their care teams to help understand how long they may have to wait for transplant.

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