Preferences for cardiac tests and procedures may partially explain sex but not race disparities

Kevin M Takakuwa, Frances S Shofer, Alexander T Limkakeng, Judd E Hollander
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 2008, 26 (5): 545-50

OBJECTIVE: There are known race and sex differences in emergent cardiac care. Many feel these differences reflect a bias from the physician. We hypothesized these differences may be the result of patient preferences.

METHODS: Emergency department (ED) patients 40 years and older with a chief complaint of chest pain were surveyed from July 11 through December 9, 2005, at 2 academic EDs. This prospective survey study included demographics and prior cardiac test experience. Preferences for hypothetical cardiac tests and procedures were compared between race and sex using chi(2) or Fisher exact tests.

RESULTS: Two hundred sixteen patients were enrolled. The mean age was 55 +/- 12 years (43% men and 51% black). Blacks compared with whites preferred the electrocardiogram (ECG) to the technetium-99m sestamibi (MIBI) stress test. Blacks also preferred a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) compared with whites who were more likely to forego PCI. These racial differences disappeared when a physician recommended a procedure. There were no race preferences between PCI vs coronary artery bypass graft, whether or not a doctor recommended the procedure. For sex, there were no preferences between ECG vs MIBI stress test or cardiac catheterization, whether or not a doctor recommended the test or procedure. With regard to a choice between PCI and coronary artery bypass graft, women were more likely to decline the procedure than men. Even with a physician-recommended procedure, women were more likely to refuse than men, whereas men were more likely to accept it.

CONCLUSIONS: Blacks were more likely to prefer the less invasive stress test and wanted PCIs more, but these racial differences disappeared when a physician-recommended test was offered. Women were more likely to refuse the most invasive cardiac procedure compared with men. The sex-related preferences might partially explain why women receive fewer invasive cardiac procedures than men. However, race-related cardiac preferences suggest that other factors beyond patient preference account for fewer PCIs in black patients.

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