Heart attack death rate higher in December
People hospitalized with a heart attack are more likely to die in December, and it’s not because their treatment is inferior, investigators report.
The incidence of heart attacks is higher in winter months, and so is the mortality rate from these attacks, Dr. Trip J. Meine and others note in their report in the Annals of Internal Medicine. They theorized that the cause is decreased use of proven treatments during the December holiday season.
To test this possibility, Meine, at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and his colleagues looked into the care and outcomes of 127,959 Medicare beneficiaries who suffered a heart attack—14,492 during December.
December admissions were significantly less likely to receive aspirin at admission (77.5 percent versus 78.9 percent) and to undergo angioplasty (14.2 percent versus 16.1 percent). Otherwise, treatment was the same in all groups.
Once the researchers factored in the characteristics of the patients, physicians and hospitals, there remained no significant difference between groups in the treatment they were given.
However, the mortality rates were higher among December admissions (21.7 percent versus 20.1 percent).
“Our findings highlight the need for further research into the mechanism of increased mortality in patients hospitalized in December,” Meine’s group concludes, “while ensuring continued emphasis on standardized care during holiday seasons for patients with acute MI.”
SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, October 4, 2005.
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