Young Black Adults Have a Significantly Higher Risk of Dying Following Heart Transplant

Young Black recipients of heart transplants have a higher risk of dying in the first year following transplant, according to a study published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

“Black heart transplant recipients have higher risk of mortality than White recipients,” the authors wrote. “Better understanding of this disparity, including subgroups most affected and timing of the highest risk, is necessary to improve care of Black recipients. We hypothesize that this disparity may be most pronounced among young recipients, as barriers to care like socioeconomic factors may be particularly salient in a younger population and lead to higher early risk of mortality.”

To test their hypothesis, they assessed almost 23,000 adult heart transplant recipients using the the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients data from 2005-2017. According to the results, young Black recipients (aged 18-30) are over twice as likely to die following heart transplant compared with non-Black recipients, however, that risk is only only notably elevated in the first year post-transplant (first year: adjusted hazard ratio, 2.30 [95% CI, 1.60 to 3.31], P<0.001; after first year: adjusted hazard ratio, 0.84 [95% CI, 0.54 to 1.29]; P=0.04).

“Our study is the first to highlight young, Black recipients as a subgroup at a higher risk of death during the first year after a heart transplant,” Hasina Maredia, MD, first author of the study and project lead at Johns Hopkins University said in a press release. “Our findings indicate clinical research moving forward should focus attention on young, Black recipients during this high-risk period so that longstanding racial disparities seen in heart transplant survival can be improved.”

The researchers added: “The high risk associated with Black race is not specifically due to race itself; it is a marker of systemic racism and inequities that have resulted in significant health care disparities.”