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Minority Kids With Heart Defects More Likely to Die in Childhood

TUESDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- Minority children in the United States born with heart defects are more likely to die in early childhood than whites, a new study finds.

Researchers examined the medical records of nearly 20,000 black, Hispanic and white infants born with congenital heart defects in Texas between January 1996 and December 2005. Overall, black infants were 32 percent more likely to die in the first five years of life than white infants, but Hispanic infants did not have an overall increased risk of death compared to white infants.

The researchers also looked at racial differences in death risks for specific types of heart defects.

Among infants with a reversal in primary connections of the heart's two main blood vessels (called transposition of the great arteries), black infants had twice the risk of death compared to white infants. The same was true among infants with a heart defect that causes low oxygen levels in the blood (known as tetrology of Fallot).

When they looked at infants with congenital abnormalities in the septum (wall) separating the left and right sides of the heart, the researchers found that black infants had lower survival rates than Hispanic or white infants.

The study authors also found that Hispanic infants with hypoplastic left heart syndrome -- a rare condition in which the heart's left side is critically underdeveloped -- were more likely to die than white or black infants.

Hispanic infants were also more likely than white infants to die if they were born without a pulmonary valve opening in the heart (a condition known as pulmonary valve atresia without septic defect).

The findings, published online April 18 in the journal Pediatrics, highlight the need for preventive strategies to reduce racial and ethnic disparities among infants and young children with heart defects, the researchers said.

"When you consider that the numbers of minority children continue to grow and are expected to account for more than half of all U.S. children by 2040, it's clear we need to reduce the racial and disparities that burden the health care system and adversely affect the lives of families," lead author Wendy Nembhard, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, said in a university news release.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about congenital heart defects.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of South Florida, news release, April 18, 2011

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