Hard choices: Pitt researcher presents findings on when to accept organ transplants

nsight. "We're actually able to model decisions that real patients face all the time," Schaefer said. "These mathematical models can give answers that make sense to doctors and can answer questions for which other standard techniques aren't as well suited."

For example, in a paper published in the October 2004 issue of the journal Management Science, the researchers noted, "[W]hen the liver quality is very low, it is optimal for the patient to choose never to have the transplant."

Schaefer and his colleagues are the first to study living donors, as well as the first to explicitly model patient physiology. "Our models are much more physiologically realistic than previous research," said Schaefer. "We are actually tracking the levels of various laboratory values in the patient's blood."

Their next step is to make the model better represent both the biology and the quality of life of organ recipients. In addition to their work on organ transplantation, Schaefer, Roberts, and several Pitt graduate students also are working on other decision-making scenarios, such as modeling the optimal time to switch HIV medications or to discharge a patient from intensive care.

Schaefer and his team plan to work with the clinical team at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's world-renowned Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute to put their research to clinical use. "Pitt is the place to be doing this," said Schaefer. "I think this is going to be a very exciting area in the future."


Contact: Karen Hoffman
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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