Almost 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. African Americans and other people of color have a substantially higher risk of experiencing a stroke than their White counterparts. And they’re also significantly more likely to die from those strokes. But Black patients are significantly less likely to receive the gold standard of stroke care, according to new research from the University of Georgia.
“Racial disparities exist in all levels of stroke care,” said Delaney Metcalf, lead author of the study and a third-year medical student in the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership. “There are many studies that show quality of medical care in general can be poorer in minority populations. But as health care professionals, we are not doing a good enough job of getting these lifesaving treatments to these patients.”
The researchers analyzed data from more than 89,000 stroke patients across the U.S. Their data showed that Black patients were significantly less likely to receive tissue plasminogen activator, a clot-busting medication that helps restore blood flow to the brain after a stroke. Additionally, Black patients were less likely than Wite patients to undergo endovascular thrombectomy, a minimally invasive procedure in which the blood clot is surgically removed.
When minority patients do get needed treatment, the researchers found nonwhite patients had substantially longer hospital stays, which may signify poorer health outcomes or lower quality of care.
Black and minority patients experience longer wait times to be seen by healthcare providers to get brain imaging. Brain scans are necessary to determine a treatment course. “Why is that? It could be that the hospital is really overrun and doesn’t have the staff to be able to do it in a timely manner,” Metcalf said. “There can also be implicit racial biases that lead to health professionals not treating their Black patients the same way they treat their White patients and not taking minority patients’ symptoms seriously.”
The full study, “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Usage and Outcomes of Ischemic Stroke Treatment in the United States,” was published in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases. It may be accessed here.