According to a new study, senior Black men have a considerably higher chance of dying after surgery as compared to their white counterparts.
The study, published this week in the medical journal BMJ, found that within 30 days following surgery, death was 50% higher for Black men than for White men. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles also found that dying after surgery overall was higher in Black men compared with White men, White women and Black women.
Among the Black men in the study, about 3% of them died following surgery overall compared with 2.7% of White men, 2.4% of White women and 2.2% of Black women. These differences were relatively larger for elective surgeries, and appeared within a week after surgery and persisted for up to 60 days after surgery, the researchers found. In a separate analysis, the researchers found that Hispanic men and Hispanic women showed a lower overall mortality than Black men.
“While a fair bit is known about such inequities, we find in our analyses that it’s specifically Black men who are dying more, and they are dying more after elective surgeries, not urgent and emergent surgeries,” said study lead Dr. Dan Ly in a press release. “Our findings point to possibilities such as poorer pre-optimization of co-morbidities prior to surgery, delays of care due to structural racism and physician bias, and worse stress and its associated physical burden on Black men in the United States.”
Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa, senior author of the study and associate professor of medicine at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, believes structural racism plays a huge role in the disparities among Black male deaths after surgery.
“The structural racism may at least partially explain our findings. For example, Black patients living in neighborhoods with predominantly Black residents tend to live close to hospitals that lack resources to provide high quality healthcare,” Tsugawa said in the email to CNN.
“It is possible that Black men in particular face especially high cumulative amounts of stress and allostatic load, which refers to the cumulative burden of chronic stress and life events, potentially leading to a higher death rate after surgery among this population.”
Another issue raised after the study centered around what happens to patients once they are discharged from the hospital after surgery and their ability to safely recover without care from nurses.
“Looking into ways at the hospital level that we can address these disparities, I think, is going to be important, said Dr. Utibe Essien, an assistant professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
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