Whites suffering from cardiac arrest are more likely to get potentially life-saving resuscitation than blacks, according to a study released Tuesday.
The study's author, Robert O'Connor, director of education and research at at the Christiana Care Health System, in Newark, Delaware, said lack of training in CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, among blacks is likely the reason for the disparity.
The study looked at 770 patients in Delaware who had a cardiac arrest away from a hospital in 2005, and found 45 percent of white victims received CPR to help revive them. That compared with 34 percent of the black victims, the study found.
"The most likely explanation is lack of access to training. I don't think it denotes any sort of cultural bias," O'Connor said in an interview.
The report also found blacks in the home are less likely to perform CPR, which involves chest compression and mouth-to-mouth breathing. Cardiac arrest, the abrupt loss of heart function and a pulse, is usually caused by underlying heart disease or a heart attack.
The disparity in attempts of CPR at home between blacks and whites suggests the disparity in public places is largely due to training differences between the races, O'Connor said.
"I may be an idealist, but I thought there would be no difference between the two groups," he said.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association taking place this week in Chicago, where thousands of doctors are reviewing new research on medications, procedures and public health.
First five minutes critical
Brain death starts to occur about five minutes after someone has a cardiac arrest with no assistance, experts say, making the help of bystanders critical.
The heart association said no statistics exist for the exact number of cardiac arrests annually, but that 250,000 people a year die of coronary heart disease without being hospitalized, which may serve as a proxy.
"The public needs to understand that they are on their own for the first couple of minutes," O'Connor said.
The CPR was also likely to be more successful when performed on whites, the study said. The restoration of a pulse occurred in 30 percent of whites, compared with 17 percent of blacks, the study said.
Researchers used 2005 phone records to call centers run by the emergency medical system, or EMS, in Delaware. The a national system is run by individual local agencies such as fire departments. Race of the victim and whether a bystander attempted CPR was recorded.
The race of the bystanders was not recorded.