Heart attack patients admitted to hospitals with low 30-day death rates for heart attacks live longer than those admitted to hospitals that have comparably high 30-day death rates post heart attack, according to research that was published Wednesday on the American Heart Association journal website Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality & Outcomes.

The research was originally scheduled to be released as part of the Quality of Care and Outcomes Research 2015 Scientific Sessions, which was cancelled due to violent protests in the city of Baltimore.

Hospitals often are assessed on the rate at which heart attack patients die within 30 days of admission. Hospitals with low 30-day risk standardized mortality rates, are considered high-performing. Hospitals with high mortality rates are considered low-performing.

Researchers analyzed a study of nearly 120,000 Medicare patients with heart attack, who were admitted to 1,824 U.S. hospitals. The study included 17 years of patient follow-up. They found:

  • Patients’ life expectancy declined as mortality rates increased.
  • Patients admitted to hospitals in the highest tenth of performing hospitals lived an average 6.44 years after heart attack, whereas, those admitted to the lowest tenth performing hospitals lived an average 5.54 years after heart attack.
  • After accounting for differences in patient populations such as other diseases and conditions, between high- and low-performing hospitals, patients treated in low-performing hospitals lost an average of 1.12 more years after heart attack than patients treated in high-performing institutions.
  • When patients who survived the first 30 days after heart attack were reviewed separately, there was no difference in life expectancy between patients admitted to high- and low-performing hospitals.

The survival benefit of being admitted to a high-performing hospital occurs in the first 30 days and persists with time, researchers said.