Young Black adults twice as likely to die in first year after heart transplant

By American Heart Association News

rubberball/Brand X Pictures, Getty Images
(rubberball/Brand X Pictures, Getty Images)

Young Black adults who receive heart transplants are more than twice as likely as their non-Black peers to die within a year, new research shows.

The higher risk of death begins to decline after the age of 30, with racial disparities among heart transplant recipients disappearing by age 61, the study found. The work was published Tuesday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

While previous research has consistently revealed a gap in mortality rates for Black and non-Black heart transplant recipients, this was the first study to show the disparity was most striking among younger adults.

"Generally, older patients are at a higher risk of having worse outcomes following a major procedure," senior study author Dr. Errol L. Bush said in a news release. Bush is an associate professor of surgery and surgical director of the Advanced Lung Disease and Lung Transplantation program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The findings further highlight the disproportionate level of heart health problems among young Black adults and the need for greater attention to this group, the researchers concluded.

"Our findings indicate clinical research moving forward should focus on targeted interventions for young Black recipients during this high-risk period so that longstanding racial disparities seen in heart transplant survival can be improved," Dr. Hasina Maredia said in the release. Maredia led the study as a medical student at Johns Hopkins University.

In the study, researchers compared mortality rates for 23,000 heart transplant recipients in four age groups. They found a 30% higher risk of death for Black adults across all ages compared to non-Black heart transplant recipients. The gap in mortality rates was highest for those under 30, who were twice as likely overall to die – and 2.3 times more likely to die within the first year after their heart transplant. Those ages 31-40 were 1.5 times as likely to die. By age 61, the mortality gap was no longer statistically significant.

The study also found young Black heart transplant recipients were more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure or both; have a weakened heart muscle; and be insured by Medicaid rather than a private insurer. Prior research shows Black adults more frequently have heart disease at younger ages and are therefore more likely to need heart transplants at a younger age than their non-Black peers.

"The high risk associated with Black race is not specifically due to race itself," Bush said. "It is a marker of systemic racism and inequities that have resulted in health care disparities."

If you have questions or comments about this story, please email [email protected]..

American Heart Association News Stories

American Heart Association News covers heart disease, stroke and related health issues. Not all views expressed in American Heart Association News stories reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Statements, conclusions, accuracy and reliability of studies published in American Heart Association scientific journals or presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the American Heart Association’s official guidance, policies or positions.

Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, for individuals, media outlets, and non-commercial education and awareness efforts to link to, quote, excerpt from or reprint these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to American Heart Association News.

Other uses, including educational products or services sold for profit, must comply with the American Heart Association’s Copyright Permission Guidelines. See full terms of use. These stories may not be used to promote or endorse a commercial product or service.

HEALTH CARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or call for emergency medical help immediately.