Focus Policy Blog


African Americans Encounter Disparities in Treatment and Outcome of Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow to the body.  A new study published in Ethnicity and Disease has shown a disparity in the diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes of AF between African American and white patients. This study analyzed data derived from 165,319 hospitalized patients with a diagnosis of AF. The data was part of the Nationwide Inpatient Sample dataset of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) and it included 1051 hospitals in 40 states from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2010.

Some key findings:

  • African Americans are diagnosed with AF less often than their white counterparts.
  • African Americans are less likely to receive standard in-hospital treatments for AF compared to their white counterparts.
  • African American men have double the odds of dying during hospitalization for AF compared to white men.

The lead investigator of the study, Dr. Sahar Naderi, spoke to the gravity of the results derived from this study.

“While these are all associations and not confirmed disparities, I think we should be aware that there may be treatment differences in AF,” said Naderi. “At the end of the day, we can have all the technology we want, but if we’re not using it appropriately and considering it for all of our patients equally, we’re not providing effective healthcare.”

Adedotun Ogunbajo, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health