Health disparities plague our healthcare system. Utilizing a novel approach, we sought to assess the effects of geographic disparities on access to lung transplantation (LT) in the United States.
A total of 13 743 LT adult recipients in the United Network for Organ Sharing Database were identified between May 2005 and December 2014 with a zip code status. Geographic access was defined by global spherical distance from patient zip code centroid to transplant center. Measures analyzed included the association among socioeconomic status (SES), distance to a transplant center, and center switching behavior.
Median distance traveled was 62.9 miles. There was an inverse relationship between Diez Roux SES and median distance traveled (90 versus 80.1 versus 60.5 versus 30, P < 0.001). There was no association found between 5-y survival and distance traveled (P = 0.099). However, traveling >158.7 miles was associated with worse survival (hazard ration 1.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.0-1.2; P = 0.005). Over 80% of patients exhibiting center switching were transplanted at a high-volume center than their home institution. Those more likely to switch to a high-volume center were those with an associates/bachelor (P < 0.005) or graduate-level degree (P < 0.05). Recipients with high-volume home institutions had the lowest probability of switching to an alternative center (odds ratio, 0.009; P < 0.001). There was no difference in survival when comparing those transplanted at their home institution versus those who sought transplantation at an alternative institution (55.3% versus 55.0%, P = 0.41).
Although there was no association among SES, distance traveled, and survival, access to LT services varies among populations in the United States.