Women and blacks are less likely than white men to receive implantable cardiac defibrillators, according to two studies led by Duke University researchers and published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Defibrillators are designed to deliver electrical pulses to help a heart beat properly, according to the Journal. Medicare coverage for implantable defibrillators expanded in late 2004, USA Today reports (Rubin, USA Today, 10/3). According to the Los Angeles Times, the devices cost about $30,000 to $40,000 and have been shown to prolong life in 31% to 50% of patients who receive them.
For one of the studies, Lesley Curtis, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke, and colleagues examined data from a national sample of 237,000 Medicare beneficiaries from 1999 through 2005. The average age of the beneficiaries was 75. The researchers found that 32.3 of 1,000 men and 8.6 of 1,000 women who in 2005 met the Medicare coverage criteria to have a defibrillator implanted had the device implanted within one year. Black patients were 30% less likely than white patients to receive a defibrillator, according to the study.
In addition, the study found that among beneficiaries who previously had experienced a cardiac event, men were about 2.5 times more likely than women to receive a defibrillator within one year. Among those who already had experienced a cardiac event, 102.2 of every 1,000 men and 38.4 of every 1,000 women received a defibrillator. The risk of death in the year following implantation was 35% lower among those who received the device, the study found.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation