Post-surgical racial mortality gap may be narrowing

The post-surgical mortality gap between blacks and whites in the U.S. has declined over time, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published online June 5, 2017 in Health Affairs.

A team led by Harvard Chan research fellow Winta Mehtsun looked at Medicare inpatient claims data from 2005-14, from nearly 6.6 million patients age 65 and older, and examined trends in 30-day postoperative mortality rates in black and white patients for several high-risk procedures, such as coronary artery bypass graft and hip replacement, and several low-risk procedures, such as appendectomy.

They found that postoperative mortality rates across a range of procedures decreased for both blacks and whites during the study period—by .10% and .07% per year, respectively—which significantly narrowed the black-white gap.

The authors said that broad-based quality improvements at hospitals may have helped lessen racial disparities in surgical outcomes. But they added that disparities still exist, especially for low-risk surgeries, and that efforts to close post-surgical mortality gaps should continue.

Other Harvard Chan authors included Jie Zheng, E. John Orav, and Ashish Jha.

Read the study abstract: Racial Disparities In Surgical Mortality: The Gap Appears To Have Narrowed

Read a Medscape article: Postoperative Mortality Gap Narrows for Blacks