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Surgical complications greater for minority seniors

Updated: Oct 2, 2013 02:22 PM
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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Older black and Hispanic patients are more likely than white seniors to have complications after surgery, and pre-existing medical conditions are a major reason for that difference, a large new study suggests.

Researchers examined the rates of 13 common types of complications among more than 587,000 white, black and Hispanic patients aged 65 and older who had general, orthopedic or vascular surgery in 600 hospitals in the United States.

The investigators found that black patients were nearly three times more likely than white patients to develop 12 of the 13 complications. Hispanic patients were twice as likely as white patients to develop nine of the 13 complications but less likely to develop two of the complications.

However, the number of complications among black and Hispanic patients dropped significantly when the researchers accounted for hospital and patient characteristics, according to the study published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

"The risk of developing a postoperative complication may be attributed to a number of factors. Most pronounced, however, was the effect of pre-existing medical conditions," study lead author Dr. J. Margo Brooks Carthon, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, said in a journal news release.

The researchers also found that gender influenced the risk of postsurgical complications.

"The risk of developing certain postsurgical complications . . . differs for men and women -- even men and women of the same ethnic and racial backgrounds," Brooks Carthon pointed out.

The researchers said their findings show the need to improve surgical safety and quality, especially for older minority patients who are often sicker before having surgery and thus at greater risk for complications after surgery.

"Our study also suggests the need for further evaluation of patient risk factors prior to surgery and more vigilant surveillance of patients following operative procedures," Brooks Carthon concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging offers advice to older adults considering surgery.

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