-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Following surgery for the
common gastrointestinal disorder diverticulitis, elderly black
patients are more likely to die than white seniors, a new study has
The researchers also found blacks were more likely to have
longer hospital stays, costing nearly $30,000 more than whites.
These racial differences held true, the study noted, even when the
patients were equally sick and had the same health insurance.
"Even if everyone has coverage, black patients are doing worse, so we need to find out what else is going on," study leader Eric B. Schneider, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research, said in a Hopkins news release. "Maybe then we can make a difference."
In conducting the study, the researchers analyzed information
collected from more than 50,000 Medicare patients who had part of
their colon removed, with or without a colostomy, over the course
of three years.
Although all of the senior citizens followed needed the surgery,
the study found black patients were 26 percent more likely to need
riskier and more expensive emergency surgery for diverticulitis,
rather than a scheduled operation.
Regardless of whether or not the surgery was an emergency
procedure, the study, published in the September issue of
Archives of Surgery, also found that black patients were 28 percent more likely to die in the hospital afterwards.
The study authors pointed out that their findings challenge
popular beliefs that the increased risks faced by blacks were
linked to socioeconomic differences, such as health insurance
coverage. They noted, however, blacks may have more undiagnosed
illness than whites because previous research has shown they visit
the doctor less often. These untreated underlying conditions may
contribute to worse outcomes after intestinal surgery.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about
racial differences in health care.
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