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A new study highlights medical disparities that Black people face in regards to being diagnosed with cognitive impairments.

The report found that Black people received medical imaging for cognitive impairment years later compared to white and Hispanic people. Black individuals less frequently had access to MRI technology, which gives the most detail, the research found. Medical imaging typically includes computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The research was presented this week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

“If disparity in obtaining access to neuroimaging is one possible barrier that delays diagnosis, it is important to identify this and figure out possible solutions to benefit these patients and prevent a delayed diagnosis,” Joshua Wibecan, MD, lead author and a radiology resident at Boston Medical Center in Boston, said in a statement.

Other research shows that Black individuals have a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. They also are less likely to receive a diagnosis, and when they do get one, it’s at a more advanced stage of the disease compared to whites. 

The researchers examined outpatient CTs and CT angiographies of the head, as well as MRIs on the brain for cognitive impairment. The team obtained patient self-identified data on race. Black people who received imaging cognitive impairment obtained it at an older age and less frequently received imaging for cognitive impairment with MRI, the scientists found.

The average age when Black people underwent imaging for cognitive impairment was 72.5 years, compared with 67.8 years for white people, 66.5 years for Hispanic individuals, and 66.7 years for the other ethnicities. In total, 50.9% of Black people underwent MRI testing for cognitive impairment. That compared to 60% of white people, 67% of Hispanic people and 68.2% of people of other ethnicities.

“Black patients who received MRI or CT for cognitive impairment were significantly older than patients from other races. Second, Black patients were significantly less likely to be imaged with MRI, the optimal type of imaging for cognitive impairment, as opposed to CT,” Wibecan said.