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Lack of private insurance contribute to higher deaths among black heart transplant patients
Date:5/31/2010

Transplant surgeons at Johns Hopkins who have reviewed the medical records of more than 20,000 heart transplant patients say that it is not simply racial differences, but rather flaws in the health care system, along with type of insurance and education levels, in addition to biological factors, that are likely the causes of disproportionately worse outcomes after heart transplantation in African Americans.

In a report on the review to be published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery online June 1, the Johns Hopkins team showed that race matching donor hearts did nothing to extend the life in organ recipients. Race matching is the practice of transplanting donor hearts into patients of the same ethnic group. White donors would be matched to white recipients, and the same would apply to blacks, Hispanics or Asians.

"It does not matter whether a white, black, Hispanic or Asian donor heart is transplanted into a patient of any other particular race," says senior study investigator and Johns Hopkins transplant surgeon Ashish Shah, M.D. "Other factors must be the reason for any differences in how well people do after transplantation, in particular, why blacks have poorer outcomes."

In what is believed to be the largest and most detailed review of medical records ever conducted on the subject, the Johns Hopkins team combed 20,185 North American transplant patients' records. All received a donor heart between 1997 and 2007.

Researchers found that 61 percent of heart recipients were race matched (12,381). Among blacks, the death rate after five years was the same, at 35 percent, whether donors and recipients were race matched or not. The same was true among whites, at 26 percent, and among Hispanics, at 28 percent. (Although trends appeared to be the same for Asians, the number of transplants in Asians was not statistically large enough to provide valid percentages.) Death or survival rates were consistent for all timefr
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Contact: David March
dmarch1@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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