Kidney-pancreas policy

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Removing DSA and OPTN region from kidney and pancreas allocation

Working together to continuously improve the system, United Network for Organ Sharing and the donation and transplant community have developed new kidney and pancreas allocation policies that will be implemented Dec. 15, 2020. By broadening distribution, the policies will mean greater equity in access across the country.

Frequently asked questions

Increasing equity to benefit patients

The organ transplantation system in the U.S. has never worked better than it does today, but there is still room for improvement. Nearly 92,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant. Statistical simulation modeling projects that the new kidney and pancreas policies will improve transplant access for key groups of transplant candidates, including children, women, ethnic minorities and candidates who are particularly hard to match for biological reasons.

Patient webinar 

A Nov. 23 webinar for patients and their caregivers addressed the upcoming changes. A recording is available for viewing here

Read how UNOS is making kidney and pancreas distribution more fair and equitable by reducing disparities and increasing access for patients.

Optimizing efficiency, improving organ distribution

Developed with input from the community, five separate policies were approved by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Board of Directors in December 2019 and June 2020 that affect the role of geography in allocation of kidneys and pancreata.

The new policies remove donation service area (DSA) and OPTN region from kidney and pancreas allocation. Instead of using these inconsistent boundaries as units of distribution, kidneys and pancreata will now be allocated using a 250 nautical mile (NM) circle around the donor’s hospital. In this distance-based allocation system, up to two proximity points will be awarded to candidates inside the circle to offer organs efficiently to candidates listed closer to or farther from the donor location. If no candidates inside the circle accept the offer, then up to four proximity points will be awarded to candidates outside the circle. Additional policies will address how organs from Alaska are allocated and how medically urgent kidney candidates are prioritized in the new system. There will also be substantive changes to how organ procurement organizations (OPOs) will reallocate organs that can’t be transplanted into the original intended candidate. Find additional information about the new policies from the resource links at the top of the page.

The road to this policy development involved three public comment cycles and input from thousands of people from across the country. Find information about all the Board and committee actions leading up to the June 2020 Board of Directors meeting here.

What are DSAs?

What are OPTN regions?

Who makes policy?

A step on the path to broader distribution

The success of the national organ donation and transplant system reflects our singular commitment to continuous improvement, which has driven seven consecutive years of increases in the number of transplants performed.

These changes to kidney and pancreas allocation are the continuation of a process to improve distribution of organs, a national lifesource, and are not the final stage in the development of organ allocation policy. UNOS is always striving to continuously improve the system to save more lives through broader distribution of organs.

Frequently asked questions

When will these policies be implemented?

These policies will be implemented Dec.15, 2020. On Dec.1, there will be a Phase I implementation of the policy changes that related to addressing medically urgent kidney candidates, in order to allow staff to update existing candidates who will meet the new medical urgency requirements. Find more details about the implementation here

What impact do these changes have on the existing Kidney Allocation System (KAS)?

KAS was implemented in 2014 and is still in effect. The aspects of KAS addressing prioritization of transplant candidates, including EPTS, and of assessing donor longevity potential, including KDPI, will not change as a result of policies affecting kidney distribution. The upcoming changes will impact match sequencing in KAS. Instead of relying on DSA and region, kidney allocation will be based on geographical distance between donor and recipient.

Find more information about KAS here.

What impact do these changes have on the existing Pancreas Allocation System (PAS)?

PAS was implemented in 2014 and is still in effect. The upcoming changes will impact match sequencing in PAS. Instead of relying on DSA and region, pancreas and kidney-pancreas allocation will be based on geographical distance between donor and recipient.

Find more information about PAS here.

I’m an OPO professional—how can I learn about the modifications to released kidney and pancreas allocation?

There will be significant changes to the policies that determine the “backup” priority for these organs. New released organ allocation policies address the reallocation of kidney, kidney-pancreas, pancreas, and islets in situations in which an organ allocated to an original intended recipient is unable to be transplanted in that recipient.

For released kidneys, the major change will be that the host OPO will maintain responsibility for any necessary continued allocation either using the original match run or a new match run with a 250NM circle around the intended recipient hospital. The allocation of released kidneys will no longer be done at the importing OPO or DSA level. There are also changes to released kidney-pancreas, pancreas, and islets.

Professional education resources for OPO staff on these modifications to released organ allocation will be available on UNOS Connect Nov. 17.

Find a summary of the policy changes and a visual aid to the reallocation processes in the new system on the policy’s toolkit page.

Why are DSA and region being removed from kidney and pancreas allocation?

These improvements to kidney and pancreas allocation developed as a result of the OPTN Board of Directors’ 2018 directive that organ-specific committees remove DSA and region from allocation policies to align with the OPTN Final Rule. The Final Rule requires that policies “shall not be based on the candidate’s place of residence or place of listing, except to the extent required” by the other requirements of the Rule. The changes mean that match sequencing will be based on geographical distance between donor and recipient instead of fixed DSA and regional boundaries.

When were these policies approved?

After taking into consideration the feedback generated through two cycles of public comment, the Board approved removing DSA and region from kidney and pancreas at its December 2019 meeting. The additional policies addressing Alaska allocation, prioritization of medically urgent kidney candidates, and OPO processes related to reallocating released organs were approved at the Board’s June 2020 meeting.

How will offers be made in the new system?

In the new system, kidney and pancreas offers (except for rare, very well-matched donor and recipient combinations nationwide) will be offered first to candidates listed at transplant hospitals within 250 NM of the donor hospital. Offers not accepted for any of these candidates will then be made for candidates beyond the 250 NM distance. Kidney and pancreas candidates will receive proximity points in the new system that prioritize them within their classification.

Find detailed information in the policy notices on the policy toolkit pages.

How do proximity points work in the new system?

A candidate’s proximity points will be based on the distance between their transplant program and the donor hospital. Proximity points are intended to improve the efficiency of organ placement by adding priority for candidates closer to the donor hospital. Mandatory national shares still apply.

Learn more about proximity points on the policy’s toolkit page.

I am a transplant professional and have medically urgent candidates in my care. How will the new policy impact their prioritization?

It will be necessary to train staff on new processes for obtaining priority for medical urgency in Waitlist℠. Starting Dec. 1, there will be a two-week transition period for medical urgency status ahead of implementation, and staff will need to enter data for any existing medically urgent candidates into the Waitlist data collection tool ahead of implementation in order to ensure that current medically urgent candidates receive priority immediately under the new policy, assuming they meet the criteria of the policy definition. Information regarding the new Medical Urgency section of the system, including examples as well as details around entering and editing the data, will be available in the online help documentation within Waitlist during the transition period.

Professional education resources for both phases of implementation will be released on UNOS Connect in November. Find more information about the professsional education for the two phases of implementation of the medical urgency policy here.

Find detailed policy information on the policy’s toolkit page.

What professional education materials are available on UNOS Connect?

The following online educational modules are available on UNOS Connect:

  • KID113: Medically Urgent Status for Adult and Pediatric Candidates: Phase One
  • KID112: Removing DSA and Region from Kidney and Pancreas Allocation
  • KID114: Medically Urgent Status for Adult and Pediatric Candidates: Phase Two
  • KID111: Modifications to Released Kidney and Pancreas Allocation
  • QLT102D: Notification Limits for Distance-based Allocation
  • QLT103D: Acceptance Criteria for Distance-based Allocation
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