High-Risk Heart Patients: When the Cardiologists Are Away

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Common sense would suggest that it may not be a good time to have a heart attack when cardiologists are more scarce due to a national cardiology convention taking place outside of your local area. Rather surprisingly, however, the results of a recent study suggest something quite different.

The L.A. Times and NPR both report that researchers from Harvard Medical School, USC and Santa Monica’s Rand Corp. found that high-risk cardiac arrest patients actually had a ten percent increase in the rate of survival at teaching hospitals on the dates during which a national cardiology conference was being held. High-risk patients with heart failure saw a seven percent increase in survival rates.

This finding only held true, though, for teaching hospitals. High-risk cardiac patients who attended at non-teaching hospitals in the area did not see an increase in survival rates. Nor were there any changes affecting lower-risk cardiac patients at either teaching and non-teaching hospitals.

The study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, did a retrospective analysis of 30-day mortality among Medicare patients who were admitted to major teaching and non-teaching hospitals in the period from 2002 to 2011 on the days when either the American Heart Association or the American College of Cardiology had their annual conventions.

In embarking on the study, the researchers had expected to come to opposite conclusions. As to why the survival rates increased for high-risk cardiac patients admitted to teaching hospitals during convention dates, the researchers speculate that one possibility may be that more aggressive treatments, which can give rise to more complications such as infections, are not as beneficial for the high-risk cardiac patient.

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