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N Engl J Med. 1993 Aug 26;329(9):621-7.

Racial differences in the use of invasive cardiovascular procedures in the Department of Veterans Affairs medical system.

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Section of General Internal Medicine, Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs Medical Center, PA 15240.



Previous studies have found racial differences in the use of invasive cardiovascular procedures, which may be due in part to the greater financial incentives to perform such procedures in white patients. In Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, direct financial incentives affecting use of the procedures are minimized for both patients and physicians.


We conducted a retrospective analysis of the use of cardiovascular procedures among black and white male veterans discharged from Veterans Affairs hospitals with primary diagnoses of cardiovascular disease or chest pain during fiscal years 1987 through 1991. We used coded discharge data to determine whether cardiac catheterization, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, or coronary artery bypass grafting was performed during or immediately after such admissions. We used logistic-regression analysis to adjust for the primary discharge diagnosis, the presence of coexisting conditions, age, marital status, type of eligibility to receive care at Veterans Affairs hospitals, geographic region, and whether the hospital was equipped to perform bypass surgery. We classified the primary diagnosis as myocardial infarction, unstable angina, angina, chronic ischemia, chest pain, or "other" cardiovascular diagnosis.


After we adjusted for all the potential confounders, we found that white veterans were more likely than black veterans to undergo cardiac catheterization (odds ratio, 1.38; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.34 to 1.42), angioplasty (odds ratio, 1.50; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.38 to 1.64), and coronary artery bypass surgery (odds ratio, 2.22; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.09 to 2.36).


Even when financial incentives are absent, whites are more likely than blacks to undergo invasive cardiac procedures. These findings suggest that social or clinical factors affect the use of these procedures in blacks and whites.

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