Racial/Ethnic Variation in Emergency Department Care for Children With Asthma

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To assess the variation between racial/ethnic groups in emergency department (ED) treatment of asthma for pediatric patients.


This study was a cross-sectional analysis of pediatric (2–18 years) asthma visits among 6 EDs in the Upper Midwest between June 2011 and May 2012. We used mixed-effects logistic regression to assess the odds of receiving steroids, radiology tests, and returning to the ED within 30 days. We conducted a subanalysis of asthma visits where patients received at least 1 albuterol treatment in the ED.


The sample included 2909 asthma visits by 1755 patients who were discharged home from the ED. After adjusting for demographics, insurance type, and triage score, African American (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.78; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.40–2.26) and Hispanic (aOR, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.22–2.22) patients had higher odds of receiving steroids compared with whites. African Americans (aOR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.46–0.74) also had lower odds of radiological testing compared with whites. Asians had the lowest odds of 30-day ED revisits (aOR, 0.26; 95% CI, 0.08–0.84), with no other significant differences detected between racial/ethnic groups. Subgroup analyses of asthma patients who received albuterol revealed similar results, with American Indians showing lower odds of radiological testing as well (aOR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.22–1.01).


In this study, children from racial/ethnic minority groups had higher odds of steroid administration and lower odds of radiological testing compared with white children. The underlying reasons for these differences are likely multifactorial, including varying levels of disease severity, health literacy, and access to care.

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