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Heart attack sufferers more likely to survive if doctor is away, study says 

If you are recovering from cardiac arrest, doctors are essential to the healing process, right? According to a new report, you’re more likely to survive if your cardiologist is away.

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Researchers from Harvard University recently conducted a study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, to determine the possibility of survival for people who suffer heart attacks when their doctors are away.

To do so, they examined the 30-day survival rate of Medicare heart attack sufferers admitted to the hospital while their doctors were at the five-day Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics meeting.

After analyzing the results, they found that 19.5 percent of patients died within 30 days of admission when the doctor was present. It was just 16.9 percent when the cardiologist was away.

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Some heart attack sufferers require stents, which are tubes inserted into the heart blood vessels to help clear passageways. About 15.3 percent of heart attack patients, who needed stents and were admitted on meeting days, died within 30 days. About 16.7 percent admitted on non-meeting dates died within the month.

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“Which doctor treats you does matter. The types of doctors who attend these meetings seem to provide different care, at least for a subgroup of patients,” coauthor Aunupam Jena said in a statement. “This is an unfortunate paradox given that professional conferences are designed to actually makes us better physicians and improve the care we deliver.”

The scientists said doctors who attend the conferences perform more stents. They’re also more focused on publishing research and more likely to run clinical trials, compared to their peers who do not go to the meetings.

“If doctors focus their attention on a particular kind of procedure, they might not develop other clinical skills that are as important to influencing outcomes as is knowledge of a specific procedure,” Jena said. “Treating a cardiac patient isn't just about cardiac issues—it's about other factors that the patient brings to the hospital.”

Although the researchers have drawn conclusions about cardiac specialists who attend conferences and those who don’t, they said the true differences are still unknown.

That’s why they hope to continue their investigations to explore how a variety of physicians develop their nonprocedural skills over time.

“The fact that mortality actually falls for heart attack patients during these conference dates raises important questions about how care might differ during these periods,” Jena said. “What we really want to know is how we can close the gap in outcomes and save more lives.”

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