Objective: To compare racial differences in clinical presentation, natural history, and access to medical care and procedures among emergency-department patients with acute chest pain.
Design: Prospective follow-up study of consecutive patients coming to the emergency department because of acute chest pain.
Setting: Two university medical centers.
Patients: A total of 3031 patients who were 30 years or older and who came to the emergency department with acute chest pain from 1984 to 1986.
Main results: African-Americans tended to have slightly, but not always significantly, lower rates of acute myocardial infarction, acute ischemic heart disease, and major complications, after adjusting for presenting symptoms and signs; the adjusted odds ratios for African-Americans were as follows: 0.77 (95% CI, 0.54 to 1.1) for acute myocardial infarction, 0.75 (CI, 0.59 to 0.95) for ischemic heart disease, and 0.79 (CI, 0.45 to 1.4) for death or major complications. Clinical factors classically associated with acute myocardial infarction were equally predictive in African-Americans and whites. After adjustments were made for multiple clinical factors, a lower proportion of African-Americans were admitted to the hospital (odds ratio, 0.69; CI, 0.56 to 0.84), and, once admitted, were somewhat less likely to be triaged to the coronary care unit (odds ratio, 0.81; CI, 0.65 to 1.0). In adjusted analyses, African-Americans were as likely to undergo cardiac catheterization as whites (odds ratio, 0.86; CI, 0.64 to 1.2) but were less likely to undergo coronary artery bypass procedures once severity of coronary disease was included in the analysis (odds ratio, 0.24; CI, 0.08 to 0.71).
Conclusion: African-Americans and whites had a similar presentation and natural history of acute myocardial infarction and, after adjusting for probability of clinical events, similar access to most medical care and cardiac procedures. However, the rate of coronary artery bypass procedures was much lower among African-Americans than among whites. Reasons for this difference should be studied.