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Aug 08, 2018

African-Americans Face Lower Survival Rates After Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Black survivors of sudden cardiac arrest are less likely to live five more years compared to white survivors, study finds.

Race has a significant impact on survival rates after sudden cardiac arrest, based on a recent study that found black patients suffering sudden cardiac arrest were 10% less likely to be alive after a year than whites. Findings were similar for survival rates after three and five years, highlighting significant racial disparities.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this study looked at long-term outcomes in survivors of in-hospital sudden cardiac arrest. It included nearly 8,800 U.S. patients in a national registry, all of which survived sudden cardiac arrest and were discharged from the hospital between 2000 and 2011.

The goal of the study was to compare long-term survival rates among black and white patients after sudden cardiac arrest and to explore any reasons for differences.

Overall, researchers found that black patients were 28% less likely to live to one year and 33% less likely to live to 5 years after being discharged after sudden cardiac arrest compared to whites. Participants were 65 years or older at the start of the study and 13% were black.

Experts found that the majority of this association was explained by patient factors and differences in hospital care.

For example, black patients were more likely to be sicker with more chronic conditions before their heart event than whites. They were also less likely to undergo a test called a coronary angiogram, which is considered the gold standard for diagnosing heart disease and other heart problems.

Together, these types of factors helped explain some of the reasons why black patients had poorer outcomes than whites. But they don’t explain all of the differences, according to authors. Even after accounting for differences in overall health, hospital care and follow-up treatment, black patients still faced poorer survival rates after sudden cardiac arrest compared to whites.

As a result, authors conclude that further research is needed to understand and address these racial disparities. We need to continue to explore the reasons why blacks have poorer survival after sudden cardiac arrest compared to whites.

At the same time, addressing the known reasons for existing disparities is critical. That means helping blacks improve their overall health and address risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. It also means improving the quality of care patients receive both in and out of the hospital after sudden cardiac arrest.

Together, experts hope these steps will further our understanding and reduce racial disparities in this area of health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is sudden cardiac death?

  • Sudden cardiac death can result from sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. Sudden cardiac arrest must be immediately addressed with CPR and medical attention to improve chances of survival.
  • What causes sudden cardiac death?

  • Sudden cardiac death is most often caused by arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, that cause the heart to stop beating. However, it can be the result of many other cardiac causes, and usually results in death within 1 hour of the onset of symptoms.

Infographic: Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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