Racial and ethnic disparities in health care are well documented in the United States, although evidence of disparities in pediatric anesthesia is limited. We sought to determine whether there is an association between race and ethnicity and the use of intraoperative regional anesthesia at a single academic children’s hospital.
We performed a retrospective review of all anesthetics at an academic tertiary children’s hospital between May 4, 2014, and May 31, 2018. The primary outcome was delivery of regional anesthesia, defined as a neuraxial or peripheral nerve block. The association between patient race and ethnicity (white non-Hispanic or minority) and receipt of regional anesthesia was assessed using multivariable logistic regression. Sensitivity analyses were performed comparing white non-Hispanic to an expansion of the single minority group to individual racial and ethnic groups and on patients undergoing surgeries most likely to receive regional anesthesia (orthopedic and urology patients).
Of 33,713 patient cases eligible for inclusion, 25,664 met criteria for analysis. Three-thousand one-hundred eighty-nine patients (12.4%) received regional anesthesia. One thousand eighty-six of 8884 (13.3%) white non-Hispanic patients and 2003 of 16,780 (11.9%) minority patients received regional anesthesia. After multivariable adjustment for confounding, race and ethnicity were not found to be significantly associated with receiving intraoperative regional anesthesia (adjusted odds ratios [ORs] = 0.95; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.86–1.06; P = .36). Sensitivity analyses did not find significant differences between the white non-Hispanic group and individual races and ethnicities, nor did they find significant differences when analyzing only orthopedic and urology patients, despite observing some meaningful clinical differences.
In an analysis of patients undergoing surgical anesthesia at a single academic children’s hospital, race and ethnicity were not significantly associated with the adjusted ORs of receiving intraoperative regional anesthesia. This finding contrasts with much of the existing health care disparities literature and warrants further study with additional datasets to understand the mechanisms involved.