Background: National statistics indicate that African Americans are disproportionately affected by mortality and hospitalizations resulting from heart failure when compared with other racial/ethnic groups. This might, in part, reflect a poorer course of heart failure among African Americans.
Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 316 white and 82 African American consecutive patients aged > or =50 years with decompensated heart failure on hospital admission. The outcome of the study was death or decline in activities of daily living function at 6 months relative to baseline.
Results: African American patients were on average 8 years younger and had less favorable socioeconomic and access-to-care indicators. African Americans more often had a history of hypertension, renal insufficiency, and diabetes, but there were no differences in functional status, self-reported health status, signs of decompensation, or left ventricular ejection fraction. Quality-of-care indicators did not differ by race. Mortality rates at 6 months were similar in African Americans and whites (19.5% vs 17.2%, age adjusted), but African Americans had a greater functional decline (37.6% vs 24.7%). After adjusting for baseline characteristics, African Americans had an almost 50% higher risk of either death or decline in activities of daily living functioning (relative risk 1.45, 95% CI, 1.06-1.81). Adjustment for socioeconomic, access-to-care and quality-of-care indicators did not substantially change this estimate.
Conclusions: African Americans have similar mortality but greater functional decline than whites after hospitalization for heart failure. This outcome is not explained by clinical, socioeconomic, access-to-care or quality-of-care differences.