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Feb 22, 2012

Heart Attack Treatment in Hispanics

Disparities in heart attack treatment highlight need for quality improvement.

A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery delivering oxygen-rich blood to the heart becomes blocked, suddenly stopping the flow of blood to the heart. It is crucial that patients seek medical attention at the first signs of heart attack, because the heart muscle becomes damaged with every second that it is deprived of oxygen—sometimes permanently. So the earlier heart attack patients receive treatment, the more likely they are to survive and avoid permanent damage.

Unfortunately, research has shown that treatment provided during or after a heart attack is not always consistent among different regions, hospitals and even types of patients. While some patients may be diagnosed and treated for their heart attack very quickly, others may experience longer wait times, sometimes leading to poorer outcomes.

In an effort to better understand trends in treatment and outcomes among heart attack patients, experts created a database called The National Cardiovascular Data Registry Acute Coronary Treatment and Intervention Outcome Network – Get with the Guidelines Registry (ACTION Registry – GWTG). Between 2007 and 2009, researchers collected data on more than 46,000 patients, all suffering ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI)—a type of heart attack caused by a prolonged period of blocked blood supply. Data collected through the registry was then used by experts to explore important differences in treatment patterns for STEMI between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white patients.

Through this study, recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers found that treatment varied significantly between Hispanic and white patients. Not only did it take longer for Hispanics to get diagnosed with a heart attack after arriving at the hospital, fewer Hispanic patients received treatment within the recommended timeframe set forth by medical guidelines in comparison with white patients. Hispanics patients were also younger, more likely to have diabetes and more likely to be uninsured than their white counterparts.

Although these differences did not translate into a significant difference in outcomes, study findings support quality improvement initiatives designed to improve and streamline heart attack treatment in Hispanic patients. By addressing possible causes for delays in heart attack treatment of Hispanic patients, such as language barriers and cultural differences, experts can work together with Hispanic patients to eliminate differences in treatment and improve quality of care.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How is a heart attack diagnosed?

  • The diagnosis of a heart attack is based on symptoms, an electrocardiogram and results from a blood test used to identify markers of heart attack.
  • How is a heart attack treated?
  • Depending on the type of heart attack, treatment may include medication, non-invasive procedures, such as percutaneous coronary intervention (angioplasty), or a more invasive procedure called coronary artery bypass surgery.


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