The findings, by the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, were presented at the annual meeting of Society for Academic Emergency Medicine being held in Chicago.
The researchers say they also found that black patients’ hearts were much less likely to have been restarted by the time they arrived at the hospital – a key indicator for whether cardiac arrest victims ultimately survive.
“Cardiac arrest is a time-sensitive illness that requires immediate action to keep blood flowing to the brain – every minute without CPR and the application of shocks from an automated external defibrillator (AED) robs patients of a chance to fully recover,” senior author Dr. Roger Band said in a statement Friday. “Our findings show troubling racial disparities in the use of these lifesaving measures, and they point to the need to do more to ensure that every patient has the best chance of surviving.”
The researchers say they studied 4,909 adult out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases that occurred between January 2008 and February 2012 in Philadelphia using data from the Philadelphia Fire Department. Their analysis revealed that despite resuscitation measures by paramedics and, in some cases, bystanders, black patients were less likely to have regained their pulse before arrival at the hospital than white patients.
They were also less likely to have received important pre-hospital care measures that are a proven part of the cardiac arrest “chain of survival,” the team said.
Thirty four per cent of white patients received a shock from an automated external defibrillator placed by a bystander or medical first-responder on the scene of their arrest, compared with 27% of black patients.
Bystanders performed CPR on 5.6% of black patients, compared with 7.5% of white patients.
The investigators say they plan to look more closely at the possible role of neighbourhood factors and socio-economic status on their findings, perhaps to develop more targeted CPR training programs and place AEDs more strategically in the community.