Racial Disparity in Referral for Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation at a Single Integrated Health System

Jessica M. Duke, Lutfiyya N. Muhammad, Jing Song, Yoshihiro Tanaka, Celeste Witting, Sadiya S. Khan, Rod S. Passman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Guidelines recommend catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation (AFCA) as an option for rhythm control. Studies have shown that Black patients are less likely to undergo AFCA compared with White patients. We investigated whether differences in referral patterns play a role in this observed disparity. METHODS AND RESULTS: Using an integrated repository from the electronic medical record at Northwestern Medicine, we conducted a retrospective cohort study of outpatients with newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation. Baseline characteristics by race and ethnicity were compared. Logistic regression models adjusted for socioeconomic and health factors were constructed to determine the association between race and ethnicity and binary dependent variables including referrals and visits to general cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology (EP) and AFCA. Of 5445 patients analyzed, 4652 were non-Hispanic White (NHW) and 793 were non-Hispanic Black (NHB). In adjusted models, NHB patients initially diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in internal medicine and primary care had a significantly greater odds of referral to general cardiology; among all patients in the cohort, there was no significant difference in the odds of referral to EP between NHB and NHW patients; and there were no differences in the odds of completing a visit in general cardiology or EP. Among patients completing an EP visit, NHB patients were less likely to undergo AFCA (odds ratio, 0.63 [95% CI, 0.40– 0.98], P=0.040). CONCLUSIONS: Similar referral rates to general cardiology and EP were observed between NHB and NHW patients. Despite this, NHB patients were less likely to undergo AFCA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere025831
JournalJournal of the American Heart Association
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 20 2022


  • atrial fibrillation
  • catheter ablation
  • health care disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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