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The heart is colorblind. Interracial couples have known it for millennia. But a new study of heart transplants confirms that transplant recipients can expect similar outcomes whether the donor and recipient were race-matched or were interracial.

The study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, examined medical records from over 20,000 transplant patients identified as black, white, Hispanic or Asian and found that survival rates were the same for race-matched and mismatched donors up to one year after the procedure.

This evidence suggests that donor –recipient race matching will not improve transplant success in the short term, but it fails to explain long term differences in survival of African-American transplant recipients. Five years after heart transplant surgery African-American patients have a survival rate of 65% compared with nearly 72% for Hispanics and 75% for whites.

The same gap exists when patients were followed for 10 years after a heart transplant. The likelihood that an African-American transplant recipient will survive for 10 years after surgery is  10.8% and 11.4% lower than rates seen in Hispanics and whites respectively.

While race-matching was ruled out as a root cause for short-term survival differences, other factors including health insurance, education, hypertension, gender mismatch and donor tissue antigen mismatch may play a role.

 
Great article on health disparities at Newsweek.com
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Image: Corbis