April 8 (UPI) -- Older heart attack patients are less likely to receive certain life-saving treatments than younger patients, a new study shows.
People over age 65 who suffer a heart attack are 34 percent less likely to be treated with percutaneous coronary intervention, or angioplasty, to open blocked arteries than younger patients, according to an American Heart Association meeting report presented this week. After the blockage is removed, older patients are also 36 percent likely to receive a stent to keep the artery open and there's a 34 percent lower chance they will receive that stent within the crucial 48-hour period.
"Our study found that seniors were less likely to undergo PCI for a heart attack and if they do receive the procedure it's not within the optimal time for the best possible outcome," study author Wojciech Rzechorzek, a resident at Mount Sinai West Hospital in New York, said in a statement. "Their prognosis is worse than for younger patients with the same conditions, and this lack of treatment or delay in treatment could be a factor."
Even though they stay in the hospital a half-day longer, older patients pay less to receive care ($3,231), on average, than younger patients.
"I am surprised that the costs of stay are lower despite increased length of stay but this could be primarily driven by decreased use of PCI, which is an expensive procedure," Rzechorzek said.
The study says during their time in hospitals, older patients have a 62 percent higher chance of developing heart failure, a 28 percent higher chance going into shock and a 21 percent increased chance of cardiac arrest.
A January study reported that less than 1 percent of left main disease cases receive PCI treatment, despite the effectiveness of the procedure.
Although the new study stops short of explaining why older patients receive fewer PCI than young patients, other research suggests the procedure might be too aggressive for people of advanced age.
"Elderly patients are underrepresented in clinical trials, and we need more prospective studies evaulating the impact of PCI on outcomes," Rzechorzek said.