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Black children more likely than white kids to die after surgeries, study finds

2020-07-22

Black children are more likely than their white peers to die after common surgeries, a new study has found.

The research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics looked at the mortality rate of otherwise healthy children who underwent inpatient operations in the U.S. between 2012 and 2017.

Compared with their white peers, Black children had 3.43 times the odds of dying within the first 30 days after surgery, the report from researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said.

A total of 23 Black children died within 30 days of surgery compared with 13 white children.

Considering the sample size of 172,549 children was 70.1% white, with only 11.4% of the children being Black, the mortality rate for Black children was 0.07, compared to 0.02 for white kids.

Black children also had 18% greater odds of developing postoperative complications, compared to white children, and a 7% greater chance of developing serious adverse events, the study found.

“Generally, we expect that healthier patients should do well with surgeries. Healthy kids have low complication rates,” study author Dr. Olubukola Nafiu, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said in a statement.

“The expectation should be that complication rates and/or mortality among healthy children won’t vary based on racial category – what we found is that they do,” he said.

The study said more investigation is needed to determine the causes of the findings.

It said previous research has suggested “health care provider bias, resource allocation, household income and access to specialized care” are important factors that can influence surgical outcomes.