If you're a Medicare beneficiary living in Oklahoma City, you're about two times more likely to undergo balloon angioplasty than a Medicare beneficiary living in Tyler, Texas, according to a recent report.
Typically, doctors perform this procedure for patients with some heart conditions — and a report released this week shows that the rate at which it's performed varies widely across Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The report, from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, analyzes care provided in regions across the U.S. and focuses on trends in elective, or “preference-sensitive,” procedures.
When a treatment is elective, it means there is more than one way to treat the patient's illness or condition, and each possible treatment involves different trade-offs that individual patients will view of varying levels of importance, the report states.
Using Medicare data, the Dartmouth Atlas Project has documented variations in how medical resources are distributed and used in the U.S. for the past 20 years.
82 cities examined
The report released this week provides the rate of a variety of procedures performed in about 82 Oklahoma cities.
Oklahoma City was one of the cities specifically called out in the report for its rate of balloon angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI. The procedure is used to open clogged heart arteries, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Oklahoma ranked second highest in heart disease death rates in the U.S. in 2007, according to the state Health Department. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Oklahoma and the U.S.
Some might argue that the high rate of balloon angioplasty is because Oklahoma's heart disease problem.
Not Shannon Brownlee.
Brownlee, one of the authors of the Dartmouth study, said balloon angioplasty is often performed on questionably appropriate patients who often don't know what the actual benefits from the procedure will be.
The national average of balloon angioplasty, or percutaneous coronary intervention, is 8.2 procedures per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries, according to the report.
In Oklahoma, it's 12.5 procedures per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries, according to the report's three-year analysis of Medicare data.