Variations in Postoperative Complications According to Race, Ethnicity, and Sex in Older Adults

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To explore differences in the incidence of postoperative complications between three racial and ethnic groups (white, black, Hispanic) before and after taking into account potentially confounding patient and hospital characteristics.


Cross-sectional study using 2006 to 2007 administrative discharge data from hospitals in four states (CA, PA, NJ, FL) linked to American Hospital Association Annual Survey data and data from the U.S. Census. Risk-adjusted logistic regression models were used in the analyses.


Six hundred U.S. adult nonfederal acute care hospitals.


Individuals aged 65 and older undergoing general, orthopedic, or vascular surgery (N = 587,314; 86% white, 6% black, 8% Hispanic).


Thirteen frequent postoperative complications.


When considered without controls, black patients had significantly greater odds than white patients of developing 12 of the 13 complications, by factors (ORs) ranging from 1.09 to 2.69. Hispanic patients had significantly greater odds than white patients in nine of the 13 complications (ORs = 1.11–1.82) and significantly lower odds than white patients on two of the other four (ORs both = 0.84). The fully adjusted models that accounted for hospital and especially patient characteristics substantially diminished the number of complications for which black and Hispanic patients had significantly greater odds than white patients. Many of the significant differences between black, Hispanic, and white patients that persisted after controls were different for men and women.


Older black and Hispanic individuals have greater odds than white individuals of developing a vast majority of postoperative complications. Procedure type and health status largely explained differences in postoperative complication risk, which are frequently conditional on sex. J Am Geriatr Soc 61:1499–1507, 2013.

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