New Study Examines Disparities in Pulmonary Embolism Treatment and Outcomes for Hispanic and Latino Patients

A new study, led by Columbia physicians, examined the association between Hispanic or Latino patients and pulmonary embolism severity, management, and in-hospital outcomes.

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a deadly condition that affects thousands of Americans every year. According to a 2021 report by the American Heart Association, PE is a leading cause of mortality worldwide, responsible for over 36,000 deaths and 180,000 hospitalizations annually in the United States alone. When a blood clot obstructs the arteries of the lungs, it can result in a life-threatening situation if not treated promptly. 

While healthcare disparities research in PE has been conducted, studies often underrepresent the Hispanic or Latino population. A recent study led by Columbia physicians, published in Vascular Medicine, aimed to fill this gap and determine if there are differences in PE severity, treatment modality, or in-hospital outcomes for Hispanic or Latino patients.

Sanjum Sethi, MD, MPH, a senior author of the study and director of the Pulmonary Embolism Response Team (PERT) at Columbia University Irving Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital, sees the study as an important opportunity to understand disparities in the Hispanic or Latino population. “Hispanic and Latino patients are an underrepresented patient population in the medical literature, particularly when it comes to pulmonary embolism care.  Since we serve a large community of Hispanic and Latino patients, we were privileged to complete this study to evaluate any differences in care amongst this population.” 

Dan Snyder, MD, one of the study's authors, emphasizes Dr. Sethi's statement, “Despite making up almost 20% of the U.S. population, Hispanic or Latino patients comprise <1% of existing study cohorts. Our study addresses this gap by using a cohort of 37% of Hispanic or Latino patients.”

The study reviewed all PE cases from 2013 to 2019 at a single institution, with 1,265 patients identified with confirmed PE, 474 of whom identified as Hispanic or Latino. The study collected data on clinical characteristics, imaging findings, intervention types, and in-hospital and 30-day outcomes. 

The study found that Hispanic or Latino patients presented with high-risk PE significantly less often than non-Hispanic or Latino patients. However, they had similar rates of dying in the hospital and were equally likely to receive PE-specific intervention. 

One potential explanation for the disparities found in this study is language barriers or cultural differences that can affect how patients interact with the healthcare system. 

Mahesh Madhavan, MD, MS,  an author on the study, hopes that the research will provide insight into the presentation and outcomes of Hispanic or Latino patients with PE, who are frequently treated at CUIMC.

Moving forward, the authors suggest that future research should focus on identifying what systemic factors are driving higher-than-expected in-hospital mortality rates for Hispanic or Latino patients. “Hispanic and Latino patients appear to have similar outcomes as other patients, however they generally present with a lower risk profile and are less likely to receive advanced care techniques.  We need further research to completely understand the reason for this disparity and how to effectively address it in the future,” notes Sethi.

Eliminating disparities in healthcare access and quality is essential for providing equitable care that is accessible and effective for all patients, regardless of their ethnic or cultural background. 

If you experience symptoms of PE, such as chest pain or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.