Study: More heart attack deaths on weekends

A broad study of New Jersey heart attack patients has found that those who went to the hospital on weekends often got less aggressive treatment. Weekend heart attack patients were slightly more likely to die, as well, according to an analysis of care for 231,164 heart attack patients admitted to New Jersey hospitals from 1987 to 2002. During 1999 to 2002, 12.9 percent of weekend patients died, versus 12 percent of weekday patients. This could be, in part, due to variations in treatment: the study also found that 10 percent of weekday heart attack patients were given angioplasties the day they were admitted, while only 6.7 percent of weekend patients got prompt angioplasties.

Nonetheless, other researchers cautioned that there may not be a direct cause and effect relationship between weekend arrivals and mortality rates. For one thing, they noted, other studies have demonstrated weekend heart attack patients are often sicker, and come to the hospital later in their episode of illness, than patients who arrive during the week. Also, the new study didn't risk-adjust for severity of heart attack, patient level of illness or how long the patient waited before getting treated, they noted.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this piece in The New York Times