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Study Finds Racial Gap in Crucial Stroke Treatments

Studies have shown that black and Hispanic stroke patients often will call a friend or wait for symptoms to pass before coming to an emergency room. (American Heart Association)
Studies have shown that black and Hispanic stroke patients often will call a friend or wait for symptoms to pass before coming to an emergency room. (American Heart Association)
September 16, 2019

ARLINGTON, Va. – Black and Hispanic people having a stroke are less likely than their white counterparts to get critical treatments, according to new research from the American Heart Association's journal, Stroke.

The study shows that one reason is that minority stroke patients don't get to the hospital fast enough, says Dr. Jason Freeman, the association’s ambassador in Virginia.

"Lack of trust in medical care, belief that symptoms are going to get better, concern about cost, lack of health insurance,” he explains. “There are many reasons why people end up presenting later to the emergency room."

Freeman says that although doctors always need to work on unconscious biases, personal prejudice was highly unlikely in the study's finding of racial disparities.

The research took place from 2016 to 2018 and found that 7% of black or Hispanic stroke patients received a relatively new treatment called mechanical thrombectomy, compared with 10% of white patients.

Freeman says this therapy removes clots that block large blood vessels, and needs to start within six hours of the onset of a stroke.

"When you talk to people in the community, they often are not aware that there are any particular treatment options because what they see are friends and family members who had a stroke and had a poor outcome related to that stroke," he states.

The report shows that the medical community needs to do a better job educating the public about newer treatments available to stroke patients to prevent death and improve quality of life, Freeman says.

Disclosure: American Heart Association Mid Atlantic Affiliate contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues, Smoking Prevention. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA