Black children in the United States are more than twice as likely as their White counterparts to die from surgery complications, a new study suggests.
Due to risk factors associated with Black children, researchers found that their odds of dying within 30 days of surgery were raised. For example, they are more likely to need blood transfusions or have to be placed on ventilators to help them breathe.
“We definitely need further investigation to find out why these risk factors are more prevalent, and more strongly associated with risk of death, among Black children,” lead researcher Oguz Bilgic of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center said in a statement.
While researchers aren’t sure why Black children are more susceptible to death following surgery, they noted that Black children are more likely than Whites to have surgery at “low-volume” hospitals — those with less experience performing the procedure.
“It’s troubling when we have studies saying that being a person of color is a risk factor,” said Dr. Nia Heard-Garris of Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, who explained that race is often a “proxy” for other factors such as social conditions and access to health care.
Although the average risk of a child dying after surgery was still very low, the study found that the risk for White children was just under 0.003 percent, compared to Blacks, who faced a 0.006 percent risk.
The study, “Race, Preoperative Risk Factors, and Death After Surgery,” will be published in the February issue of Pediatrics.