Racial Differences in Cardiac Revascularization Rates

Does Overuse Explain Higher Rates Among White Patients?

Published in: Annals of Internal Medicine, v. 135, no. 5, Sep. 4, 2001, p.328-337

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2000

by Eric C. Schneider, Lucian L. Leape, Joel S. Weissman, Robert N. Piana, Constantine Gatsonis, Arnold M. Epstein

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BACKGROUND: Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery and percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) are well-established treatments for symptomatic coronary artery disease. Previous studies have documented racial differences in rates of use of these cardiac revascularization procedures. Other studies suggest that these procedures are overused: that is, they are done for patients with clinically inappropriate indications. OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that the higher rate of cardiac revascularization among white patients is associated with a higher prevalence of overuse (revascularization for clinically inappropriate indications) among white patients than among African-American patients. DESIGN: Observational cohort study using Medicare claims and medical record review. SETTING: 173 hospitals in five U.S. states. PARTICIPANTS: A stratified, weighted, random sample of 3960 Medicare beneficiaries who underwent coronary angiography during 1991 and 1992; 1692 of these patients underwent 1711 revascularization procedures within 90 days. MEASUREMENTS: The proportion of CABG and PTCA procedures rated appropriate, uncertain, and inappropriate according to RAND criteria, and the multivariate odds of undergoing inappropriate revascularization among African-American patients and white patients. RESULTS: After angiography, rates of PTCA (23% vs. 19%) and CABG surgery (29% vs. 17%) were significantly higher among white patients than among African-American patients. The respective rates of inappropriate PTCA and CABG surgery were 14% and 10%. Among the study states, rates of inappropriate use ranged from 4% to 24% for PTCA and 0% to 14% for CABG surgery. White patients were more likely than African-American patients to receive inappropriate PTCA (15% vs. 9%; difference, 6 percentage points [95% CI, -0.4 to 12.7 percentage points]), and difference by race was statistically significant among men (20% vs. 8%; difference, 12 percentage points [CI, 1.2 to 21.7 percentage points]). Rates of inappropriate CABG surgery did not differ by race (10% in both groups). CONCLUSIONS: Among a large and diverse sample of Medicare beneficiaries in five U.S. states, overuse of PTCA was greater among white men than among other groups, but this difference did not fully account for racial disparities in revascularization. Overuse of cardiac revascularization varied significantly by geographic region.

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