Children of color less likely to have elective surgeries: Study

Latino, Black and Asian children are less likely to have elective surgeries compared with white children, a study published in the December issue of Journal of Pediatric Surgery found. 

The study analyzed data on more than 200,000 children from a national health survey of parents, and roughly 10,000 of those children reportedly had surgery. 

Parents of Black, Asian and Latino children reported between 40 percent to 60 percent fewer surgeries, and Latino children were more likely to have emergency surgery. 

The results suggest that these racial and ethnic differences in surgery patients may reflect disparities in healthcare access, which would need to be addressed through further research, monitoring and interventions. 

Ethan Sanford, MD, a pediatric anesthesiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and lead author of the study, told USA Today that systemic factors may be at play, including lack of reliable transportation, inflexibility in parents' work hours and language barriers. 

"There's this possible deficit that kids aren't getting the best surgical treatment for medical issues," Dr. Sanford said. 

When conducting their research, Dr. Sanford and his co-authors looked at elective procedures that, if delayed, can hinder a patient's quality of life. 

"Delays in elective surgical care, or the inability to access for families that elective care or that scheduled surgical care, can be life-changing. It can be health-defining," Adam Alder, MD, American Academy of Pediatrics' surgical section chief and study co-author, told USA Today. "You (may) have an illness that we've been keeping track of for a period of time and now you're at a point where we can no longer simply observe that."

The findings align with other studies that demonstrate health disparities along racial lines, including higher death rates among Black children after surgery, lower rates of surgical intervention for sleep apnea among Black and Hispanic children, and a higher likelihood of delayed surgery for Black children with appendicitis.

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