Heart Attack Survival Better When Specialists Are Out of Town

From Drugs.com - March 13, 2018

Heart Attack Survival Better When Specialists Are Out of Town

TUESDAY, March 13, 2018 -- Believe it or not, new research suggests that people hospitalized for a heart attack are more likely to survive when certain heart specialists are out of town.

The study of more than 34,000 U.S. heart attack patients found survival rates were higher when interventional cardiologists were attending their annual conference.

Those cardiologists are specialists in using minimally invasive procedures such as angioplasty and stenting to treat a heart attack.

During the annual meeting -- when many interventional cardiologists would be out of town -- about 15 percent of heart attack patients died within 30 days of their hospitalization, the study showed.

In contrast, during the few weeks before and after the meeting, that death rate was just under 17 percent.

Experts said it all suggests that the doctors who stay behind practice differently from those who go to the meeting.

"But we do not yet know what makes them different," said lead researcher Dr. Anupam Jena, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

The findings, reported recently in the Journal of the American Heart Association, are not the first to show a link between medical meetings and patients' survival.

In an earlier study, Jena's team found that patients hospitalized for cardiac arrest or severe heart failure tended to fare better during the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology -- versus non-meeting dates.

"That meeting is attended by cardiologists of all sorts," Jena said. "That left the question, 'Who are the ones whose absence is driving this'?"

In the new study, the researchers focused on the annual Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics conference, which is called the world's largest interventional cardiology meeting. They looked at 2007-2012 death rates among heart attack patients at U.S. teaching hospitals during the meeting dates, and during the five weeks before and after.

Teaching hospitals are affiliated with medical schools, and many doctors who attend medical meetings work at those centers.

Why were death rates lower during meetings? Jena's team found no signs that heart attack patients were less likely to see an interventional cardiologist during the meeting dates. And they were not less likely to receive stents.

Overall, the study also showed, stent patients fared just as well during meeting dates and non-meeting dates.

Jena said the survival difference was concentrated among a specific group of patients: those who'd suffered a less-severe heart attack and were not given stents -- but received medication and other noninvasive types of care.

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