Racial/ethnic differences in receipt of surgery among children in the United States

Ethan L. Sanford, Rasmi Nair, Adam Alder, Daniel I. Sessler, Glenn Flores, Peter Szmuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: It is unknown whether racial/ethnic disparities exist in surgical utilization for children. The aim, therefore, was to evaluate the odds of surgery among children in the US by race/ethnicity to test the hypothesis that minority children have less surgery. Methods: Cross-sectional data were analyzed on children 0–18 years old from the 1999 to 2018 National Health Interview Survey, a large, nationally representative survey. The primary outcome was odds of surgery in the prior 12 months for non Latino African-American, Asian, and Latino children, compared with non Latino White children, after adjustment for relevant covariates. The National Surgical Quality Improvement Program Pediatric Dataset was used to analyze the odds of emergent/urgent surgery by race/ethnicity. Results: Data for 219,098 children were analyzed, of whom 10,644 (4.9%) received surgery. After adjustment for relevant covariates, African-American (AOR, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.50–0.59), Asian (AOR, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.33–0.46), and Latino (AOR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.57–0.67) children had lower odds of surgery than White children. Latino children were more likely to require emergent or urgent surgery (AOR, 1.71; 95% CI, 1.68–1.74). Conclusions: Latino, African-American, and Asian children have significantly lower adjusted odds of having surgery than White children in America, and Latino children were more likely to have emergent or urgent surgery. These racial/ethnic differences in surgery may reflect disparities in healthcare access which should be addressed through further research, ongoing monitoring, targeted interventions, and quality-improvement efforts. Level of evidence: II. Type of study: Prognosis study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Healthcare utilization
  • Pediatric anesthesiology
  • Pediatric surgery
  • Racial/ethnic disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Surgery


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