Johns Hopkins University Research Shows Racial Disparities in Surgical Care

A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine finds evidence that racial disparities may occur in specific stages of surgical care, particularly in pain management. The authors examined 639 patient experiences involving surgical operations performed between January 2013 and June 30, 2016.

The researchers found that Black patients received less optimal pain management than White patients who had undergone similar surgeries. Some 57 percent of White patients received epidurals to block pain, compared to 44 percent of non-White patients. The authors state that either non-White patients declined epidural blocks for pain management at higher rates due to inadequate counseling on the benefits, or that doctors carried implicit biases that led them to offer such pain management options less often to minorities and the poor.

The study also found that Black patients were placed on enhanced recovery protocols later than White patients. Enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols are predefined pathways designed to standardize some aspects of surgical care in order to reduce complications, decrease length of hospital stay, and improve overall patient satisfaction.

The full study, “Racial and Socioeconomic Differences Manifest in Process Measure Adherence for Enhanced Recovery After Surgery Pathway,” was published in the journal Diseases of the Colon & Rectum. It may be accessed here.

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