Study finds racial gap in who gets critical stroke treatments

Photo of a senior African-American patient in a hospital bed

By American Heart Association News

Black and Hispanic people having a stroke are less likely than their white counterparts to get treatments proven to reduce death and improve quality of life, new research shows.

For strokes caused by a clot, the gold standard treatment is a clot-busting drug called alteplase, according to guidelines from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. Some people might also fit the criteria for a procedure called mechanical thrombectomy, which allows a physician to thread a catheter through an artery and use a clot-grabbing device to reach and remove the mass from the brain.

In the new study, published Thursday in the AHA journal Stroke, researchers from the Mayo Clinic analyzed 206,853 records of patients at 173 medical centers nationwide. They found 16% of black or Hispanic patients received the clot-busting drug compared to 21% of white patients. About 7% of black or Hispanic patients received a mechanical thrombectomy; whereas nearly 10% of white patients did. Among those with Medicaid or who were uninsured, black or Hispanic patients were less likely to get the thrombectomy procedure than their white peers.

“As disparities in stroke care in general have been repeatedly and consistently demonstrated, I would say the results were not surprising, though they remain frustrating and concerning,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Lorenzo Rinaldo, a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

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