Shorter Patients More Likely to Die Waiting for a Lung Transplant

Height can impact wait times for transplantation and overall mortality.

Height can impact wait times for transplantation and overall mortality.

The height of a patient can not only affect their wait time for an organ transplant, it can also impact their overall mortality.

A study presented at the 2015 American Thoracic Society International Conference found that lung transplant candidates who are approximately 5 feet 3 inches or shorter face longer wait times than taller candidates and are more likely to die within a year as they wait for the procedure. Shorter patients are also more likely to be placed on mechanical ventilation as they wait for transplantation.

The researchers conducted a retrospective review of 13,341 patients initially listed for lung transplantation between 2010 and 2011 in the United States through data from the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network/United Network for Organ Sharing. The study included an analysis of baseline characteristics and 1-year waiting list mortality and transplant rates by height, with adjustments made for other variables such as age, sex, race, diagnosis, and ventilation or extracorpeal membrane oxygenation at listing.

A height of less than about 5 feet 3 inches (162 cm) was associated with a 60% relative increase in the 1-year mortality rate, a 34% relative drop in the 1-year transplant rate, and a 39% relative increase in the 1-year respiratory failure rate compared with people of average height (170 to 176.5 cm), according to the study.

"Access to lung transplantation for shorter lung transplant candidates could be improved by reformulating the LAS [Lung Allocation Score] calculation to provide greater transplant priority for this disadvantaged group," lead author Jessica Sell, MPH, said in a press release.