Californians who live between Bakersfield and Fresno are more likely to undergo certain heart procedures than nearly all other California residents, according to an analysis of state data by Stanford University, the Fresno Bee reports.
Laurence Baker, a Stanford health research and policy professor, compiled the analysis. Baker analyzed rates for angiographies and angioplasties using hospital and outpatient discharge data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Angiography is a diagnostic test that locates blocked arteries, and angioplasty is a procedure that usually involves stents to open artery blockages.
The report found that between 2005 and 2009, the central San Joaquin Valley had some of the highest rates statewide for elective angiographies and angioplasties.
Rates for angiography in the Bakersfield and Fresno areas were two and one half times the state average, according to the report. Fresno had 949 angiographies per 100,000 individuals while Bakersfield had 979, compared with the statewide average of 381 per 100,000.
Meanwhile, rates for angioplasty in Fresno and Bakersfield were 154 and 225, respectively, per 100,000 individuals, compared with the state average of 103 (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 9/3).
The study also found that residents of the city of Clearlake in Lake County have been receiving angiographies and angioplasties more than other state residents. From 2005 to 2009, Clearlake-area residents underwent elective angioplasties at more than five times the rate of Californians as a whole, and they underwent elective angiographies at nearly six times the state rate (Bazar, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/4).
Possible Reasons for Higher Rates
Physicians are not sure why the rates of certain heart procedures are higher in certain communities than others.
Some physicians think the higher heart procedure rates could be the result of a low-income and unhealthy population. The study did control for age, race, sex, education level, income and health insurance status.
Other doctors say there might not be enough primary care physicians to provide care for patients before they end up in need of cardiac procedures (Fresno Bee, 9/3).
Health care experts have said that financial incentives and patient requests could contribute to overuse of certain procedures. In addition, physician treatment habits could vary by community and lead to increased use of certain treatments, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
This report was produced by the California HealthCare Foundation's Center for Health Reporting. CHCF is the publisher of California Healthline (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/4).