African-Americans suffering from diabetes are five times as likely to lose a limb to amputation than whites, according to a study on health care inequities released Thursday by Dartmouth University.
The study added evidence to signs of "staggering variations" in healthcare quality along racial and geographic lines, the researchers said.
According to the research from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, black Americans treated for diabetes using benefits from the government's Medicare plan lost legs to amputations at a rate of 4.17 patients in 1,000.
But whites in the same situation only underwent 0.88 amputations per thousand.
The study observed less striking but still significant differences in other measures.
For instance, among Medicare-insured patients, 64 percent of white women received mammograms compared to 57 percent of blacks.
And 85 percent of white diabetes patients received crucial blood sugar control tests, while only 79 percent of blacks did.
However, the Dartmouth study underscored the sharp differences in health care from region to region.
In Louisiana, for instance, the rate of amputations for Medicare-insured diabetes sufferers was nearly 50 percent higher that the national average, measured over 2003-2005, and triple the level of the state of Utah.
And in Mississippi, the rate of mammogram tests for female Medicare patients between 65 and 69 was 57 percent, lower than the national average of 64 percent and far behind Maine's 74 percent.
"These findings underscore the importance of the local health care system as the focus for efforts to improve care," Elliott Fisher, director of Dartmouth's Center for Health Policy Research, said in a statement.
"In most regions, blacks are less likely to receive recommended care than whites, but the differences across regions are generally much larger than the differences within regions," he said.
"In some regions of the country, African-Americans receive care, equal to that of whites, but the care for everyone is well below the national average."