“Our study shows that there are significant racial differences in the incidence of ALI from 1992-2005,” lead researcher Dr. Sara Erickson told Reuters Health. “Black Americans had approximately double the incidence of ALI compared to white Americans. We were not surprised by this finding as there have been racial differences demonstrated in the incidence of other critical illnesses like sepsis.”
Dr. Erickson, from Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, said that while other studies have looked at the incidence of ALI in the entire US population, the current one is the first to compare rates among blacks and whites.
Using data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey, the researchers estimated the average annual rate of ALI from 1992 to 2005 for blacks and whites. ALI was defined as respiratory failure or pulmonary edema in the absence of heart failure, but in the presence of an at-risk condition, including sepsis, pneumonia, aspiration, or trauma.
During the 14-year period, the average annual incidence of ALI was 48 cases per 100,000 for blacks compared with just 25.7 cases per 100,000 for whites.
By contrast, ALI did not appear to be any more severe in blacks. In-hospital mortality for blacks was 36.3%, comparable to the 37.9% rate seen in whites.
“Further epidemiologic studies using national samples with detailed clinical data are necessary to determine why black Americans are at an increased risk for developing ALI and other critical illnesses, like sepsis,” Dr. Erickson said.