Past medical research has shown that when it comes to a variety of non-emergency medical procedures and conditions, racial disparities exist, possibly due to underuse or overuse of services, patient preferences or access to care. A new medical study on racial differences published this week attempts to take those factors out of the equation.

Hospital staff understands that when a patient has a cardiac arrest, resuscitation attempts must happen immediately.

“The patient’s heart is stopped, they’ve stopped breathing and there’s no electrical or mechanical activity of the heart,” said Dr. Chan.

Dr. Paul Chan of Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute, and his colleagues, felt that these in-hospital emergency events provided a unique opportunity to look at whether medical treatment – and ultimately survival – differed between black and white patients.

“Response is immediate and required to save a patients life. And many of these other factors such as overuse of therapies, under use, insurance status and cultural preferences that differ by race should really play no role as to whether or not patients who have a cardiac arrest survive,” said Dr. Chan.

Appearing this week in Jama, journal of the American Medical Association, their research examined the survival rates of over 10,000 patients within a standardized national registry who required CPR or defibrillation following an in-hospital cardiac arrest.

The study found that black patients had slightly more than a 25% survival rate to hospital discharge while white patients survived more than 37% of the time.

However, that 12% gap was substantially narrowed after researchers took into account the hospital where treatment was received.

“Some hospitals are better performers when it comes to resuscitating and providing the best possible care for patients with cardiac arrest than other hospitals, and these differences seem to disproportionately affect patients who are black,” said Dr. Chan.

Experts say finding ways of improving the quality of resuscitation and post-resuscitation care in these under performing hospitals will be crucial to eliminating survival differences by race.

The amount and aggressiveness of resuscitation attempts was also measured, with no evidence of significant differences by race.