Blacks More Likely To Undergo a Coronary Surgery Technique by Less-Experienced Surgeons, Study Finds
Blacks are more likely than whites to undergo heart bypass surgery while the heart is still beating, in part because they are more likely to have the procedure performed by a less-experienced surgeon, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, Reuters reports. Until recently, heart bypass surgery usually was performed using a heart-lung machine that stops the heart from beating, though recent research has indicated that being on the heart-lung machine can cause brain damage. The new technique -- known as "off-pump" coronary artery bypass grafting -- allows a surgeon to complete the procedure while the heart is beating. The technique is in high demand, but many surgeons are still learning the procedure, Reuters reports. For the study, lead researcher Dana Mukamel of the University of California-Irvine and colleagues examined data in the New York State Cardiac Surgery Reporting System of 15,313 heart bypass patients, which included 11,750 on-pump operations and 3,563 off-pump procedures. Researchers found that 31% of black patients had an off-pump operation, compared with 23% of white patients and 21% of other races. There was no racial difference among those treated by more-experienced surgeons. Mukamel said it is possible that black patients "may be less knowledgeable about treatment options and ... less likely to play an active role in choosing between alternative treatments." Mukamel added, "Whether this is intentional or unintentional, whether it can be explained by other factors and whether this applies to other new technologies needs to be the subject of further research and investigation" (Reuters, 1/22).
An abstract of the study is available online.