Differences in mortality are thought to exist between African Americans and Caucasians with heart failure. These differences may be due to a variety of factors, including differences in disease process, socioeconomic status, and access to health care. Additionally, little data exist on racial differences between these two groups after cardiac transplantation. This study examines a single center, urban experience in treating African Americans and Caucasians with heart failure and after cardiac transplantation. We hypothesize that treatment in a specialized, comprehensive heart failure/cardiac transplantation program results in similar survival between African Americans and Caucasians.
We retrospectively reviewed the Rush Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Database from July 1994 to August 2000. Variables analyzed in the cardiomyopathy patients included survival (until death, placement of left ventricular assist device or cardiac transplantation), number of hospitalizations per year, length of stay per year, and utilization of outpatient resources. Follow-up period was from initial visit to death, transplantation, or implantation of left ventricular assist device. In those who underwent cardiac transplantation, we examined rejection rates (cellular and humoral), rejection burden, hospitalization data, and 5-year survival. A subgroup bridged to cardiac transplantation with a left ventricular device was also analyzed.
Seven hundred thirty-four cardiomyopathy patients were identified: 203 were African Americans and 531 were Caucasians. The etiology of cardiomyopathy was more commonly ischemic in Caucasians as compared to non-ischemic in African Americans (P <.01). African Americans had more admissions to the hospital per year compared with Caucasians, 1.2 +/- 2.1 versus.5 +/- 1.1 (P <.01) with longer length of stay per year, 1.4 +/- 25.2 days versus 4.4 +/- 14.3 days (P <.01). Utilization of outpatient resources was significantly higher in African Americans compared with Caucasians with more use of continuous inotropes (13% versus 6%, P <.01), intermittent inotropes (11% versus 5%, P <.01), and home nursing after hospital discharge (52% versus 32% of hospital discharges, P <.01). Survival by Kaplan-Meier analysis was comparable between the two groups (mean survival 1,470 +/- 72 days in African Americans versus 1521 +/- 46 days in Caucasians, log rank test [P =.6]). During this time, 30 African Americans and 73 Caucasians underwent cardiac transplantation. Fifty-three were bridged to transplantation with a left ventricular assist device (20 African Americans, 33 Caucasians). There were no differences in 5-year survival by Kaplan-Meier analysis despite higher peak preoperative panel reactive antibody levels in African Americans versus Caucasians (12% +/- 30% compared with 5% +/- 15%, P =.04), more overall treated rejection episodes per year in the African Americans (P <.01), as well as more posttransplant hospitalizations (2.2 +/- 1.2 times per year as compared with 1.7 +/- 2.1 times per year, P =.04).
Delivery of care to heart failure patients in a comprehensive, specialized program results in similar survival regardless of race despite higher utilization of inpatient and outpatient resources. The finding that, after cardiac transplantation, African Americans do not have higher mortality rates, despite having higher rates of rejection overall and more hospitalizations, further supports the hypothesis that optimal care can improve outcomes despite unfavorable baseline clinical characteristics.