Black children are more than twice as likely as white kids to die from surgical complications, and minority children are about half as likely to even have surgery as white children, two new studies show.
In one study, researchers found that of nearly 277,000 children who had inpatient surgery between 2012 and 2017, 10,425 suffered a complication that required follow-up surgery and 209 subsequently died. Of those deaths, 135 patients were white (1.6% of all white children who suffered a complication) and 74 were Black (3.7% of all Black children who suffered a complication).
“We don’t fully understand all of the issues that place a Black child at greater risk and how all of these issues interact with each other,” said study author Dr. Brittany Willer, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio.
“Our study gives physician anesthesiologists and surgeons insight into those at highest risk, to heighten their awareness of the most vulnerable patients during the early postoperative period, which may have the biggest immediate impact on easing racial disparities,” Willer added.
In the second study, researchers analyzed U.S. National Health Interview Survey data on more than 227,000 children aged 18 or younger, including more than 11,000 who had inpatient or outpatient surgery in the previous 12 months.
After adjusting for factors such as the health of the child, poverty, insurance and the parents’ level of education, the researchers found that Black, Asian and Hispanic children were about half as likely as white children to have surgery.
The findings were presented Saturday at the virtual annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
There’s no evidence to suggest that white children are more likely to require surgery or to have cosmetic procedures — factors that might have helped explain the large difference, according to the researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“All parents want the best medical care for their children, and ensuring that quality surgical care is available for minority as well as white children will require a multifaceted solution,” lead author Dr. Ethan Sanford, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and pain management, said in a meeting news release. “Clearly, we have a lot of work to do.”
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explains how to prepare your child for surgery.
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