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Delays in Emergency Care Up Mortality During Major Marathons

Elderly with heart issues fare worse on race days, perhaps due to ambulance delays, researchers say


THURSDAY, April 13, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Nearby residents appear more likely to die from acute myocardial infarction and cardiac arrest during a marathon, according to research published in the April 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The findings are based on data from Medicare patients (65 years of age and over) in 11 U.S. cities that hosted major marathons between 2002 and 2012.

Of patients taken to the hospital for acute myocardial infarction or cardiac arrest on a marathon day, 28.2 percent died within a month versus 24.9 percent of patients admitted in the weeks before or after a marathon (relative risk difference, 13.3 percent). The investigators found no evidence that the increase was related to cardiovascular issues among marathon participants or out-of-town visitors. There were, however, some ambulance delays. On average, ambulances took an extra 4.4 minutes to get patients to the hospital on marathon days.

"We have traditionally focused medical preparedness and emergency care availability to address the needs of race runners, but our study suggests that effects of a marathon may spread well beyond the course of the event and affect those who live or happen to be nearby," senior author Anupam B. Jena, M.D., Ph.D., the Ruth L. Newhouse Associate Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said in a Harvard news release.

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