Hospital Delays Tied to Racial Divide in Heart Attack Care

Black Americans tend to go to centers that take longer to transfer patients for treatment, study finds

THURSDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- Among heart attack patients, black Americans generally wait longer than whites to undergo revascularization procedures to restore blood flow to their hearts, according to a new study.

But this difference is because of hospital quality, not the race of individual patients, the University of Michigan Health System researchers said.

Heart attack patients who arrive at hospitals that aren't equipped to perform revascularization procedures, such as angioplasty or open-heart surgery, need to be transferred quickly to a hospital that can do these procedures, the study authors explained in a university news release.

Black patients are much more likely than whites to initially go to hospitals that take longer to transfer their patients, regardless of race, to other hospitals, the researchers said. The result is that black patients waited six hours longer than whites to get the life-saving treatment they needed.

The findings, from an analysis of nearly 26,000 Medicare patient records, are published in the July issue of the journal Medical Care.

"These data suggest that an individual's race may play much less of a role in generating differences in care, while the hospitals where black patients often go may be even more important," lead author Dr. Colin R. Cooke said in the news release.

The reasons for the transfer delays at hospitals that serve large numbers of black patients aren't clear. The study authors suggested that better organization and funding at these hospitals could improve cardiovascular care for black patients.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart attack treatment.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, June 20, 2011

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