Racial and ethnic factors affect access to treatment for heart disease

Researchers uncover a link between racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic factors and whether Black, Latinx, and lower-income patients receive rhythm control strategies for atrial fibrillation.

Even though the use of rhythm control strategies for treating paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF), a common abnormal heart rhythm, have increased overall in the United States, patients from racial and ethnic minority groups and those with lower income were less likely to receive rhythm control treatment—often the preferred treatment—according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine. The study is published in JAMA Network Open.

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“Research has demonstrated the pervasive impact of structural racism on health outcomes among minoritized patients. We know, for instance, that there is less use of novel cardiovascular therapies among Black, Latinx, and patients of lower socioeconomic status,” says the study’s lead author, Lauren Eberly, a cardiology fellow at Penn Medicine. “That’s why we wanted to evaluate the rates of antiarrhythmic drugs and catheter ablation and investigate for the presence of inequities to see how we can do better from an equity standpoint.”

Atrial fibrillation is the most common sustained heart rhythm disorder, and is the cause of significant complications including heart failure and stroke, which can be deadly for some patients. The two forms of rhythm control are antiarrhythmic drugs and catheter ablation, which aims to eliminate the sources of atrial fibrillation. Evidence suggests that when doctors pursue these rhythm control strategies early in the course of the patient’s disease, they are more likely to successfully control the condition, and long term cardiovascular outcomes are improved.

This story is by Sophie Kluthe. Read more at Penn Medicine News.