Black Children Are More Likely to Die After Surgery
A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that after surgery black children had greater odds than white children of developing complications such as sepsis, unplanned reintubation or reoperation and severe bleeding, even among apparently healthy children with no pre-existing conditions. Black children also had a nearly 3.5 times higher chance of dying within 30 days of surgery. Studies have repeatedly shown that black patients’ experiences with the U.S. health care system are worse than those of white patients at almost every stage, from infancy to geriatric care. In surgical settings, black patients experience more complications, receive fewer follow-up visits and are more likely to die. Conventional medical thinking has largely attributed such disparities to a higher occurrence of comorbidities (the presence of two or more chronic illnesses) among black people. But this new study found that even in apparently healthy children with no preexisting comorbidities, there were still big differences in postsurgical outcomes. How quickly medical professionals recognize complications and the effectiveness of the steps they take in response are important factors that can determine the quality of care patients receive. And implicit bias may affect clinicians’ ability to notice complications. Whether we want to admit it or not, there are some differences in outlook in terms of how health care providers view patients, how health care providers recognize when a patient is in serious trouble.