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Heart Transplant Patients from Low-Income Areas Face Higher Risk

Washington DC [US], September 1

A new study has found that people who receive heart transplants from poorer communities are more likely to face problems and even die after the transplant surgery. Here’s what the study discovered:

Higher Risk for People from Poor Communities:

Between the years 2004 and 2018, people who got heart transplants from communities with lower incomes had a 10 percent higher chance of their new heart failing or dying within five years compared to those from better-off communities.

Worsening Situation:

Between 2018 and 2022, even more people faced trouble. Their risk of their new heart failing or them passing away within three years after the transplant went up by about 20 percent. This increase happened even if the number of unhappy patients was the same in both time periods.

Why This Happens:

In the United States, there are big differences in how good healthcare is depending on how much money people have. Earlier studies showed that when people live in areas where life is tough because of low income, it can make their heart health worse. But no one had looked at how this affects people after they get a new heart.

Measuring the Problem:

The researchers used something called the Distressed Communities Index (DCI) to figure out which patients came from poorer areas. They also used data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). Out of nearly 37,000 people who got new hearts, 7,450 came from poor neighborhoods.

Problems with the Study:

The study had some issues. They couldn’t say exactly where the transplant centers were or how close they were to poor communities. They also didn’t have detailed information like test results and the exact times of surgeries.

What Needs to Change:

The gap between how well people do after a heart transplant is getting bigger because of these issues. The researchers say we need to do something about it. They suggest making changes to help people from poor areas get better follow-up care after the transplant.

Including Income in Decisions:

To make things fair, they also suggest that doctors and hospitals should consider the patient’s community income level when deciding on transplant options.

COVID-19’s Impact:

The COVID-19 pandemic has made things even harder for people in poorer areas. So, it’s crucial to address these problems now, especially for those who are already vulnerable.

Sara Sakowitz, a medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA who led the study, said:

“We’ve known for a while that where you live and how much money you have can affect your health, including after a heart transplant. But we haven’t had clear ways to measure these problems and fix them. Our study shows that people from poor communities are more likely to have trouble after a heart transplant, and this gap is getting bigger. We need to change policies to make sure everyone has a fair chance at good health.”

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