Study: Black patients less likely to survive a heart attack

KANSAS CITY — Black hospital patients are far less likely to survive cardiac arrest than white patients, new research shows.

And the reason in many cases is that black patients usually go to the hospitals that do the poorest job resuscitating patients.

Just 25.2 percent of black patients who suffered cardiac arrest while they were hospitalized left the hospital alive, according to a study published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association. That compares with 37.4 percent of white patients who survived — a difference of 48 percent.

“That’s huge — larger than any other survival gap by race,” said Paul Chan, a researcher at St. Luke’s Hospital who led the national study. “And it’s poignant because the white survival rate wasn’t very high either.”

Many studies have found racial disparities in the quality of health care. Black and Hispanic preschoolers are less likely to receive routine asthma medications than white children. Minority residents of nursing homes are less likely to get glasses or hearing aids than white residents. Minority women wait twice as long as white women for follow-up tests after an abnormal mammogram.

The reasons for such disparities have been hard to pin down. Doctors may not be giving minorities equal care. Poverty and social circumstances may make health care less accessible. Cultural differences may influence when patients seek care.

Chan decided to examine racial disparities in cardiac arrest care among patients who were already in the hospital because their treatment would be less affected by economic and cultural factors.

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