A new study has found that African American kids and teens are less likely to receive pain meds for appendicitis. Opioid medication in particular seems to be overlooked.
The news is even more alarming as the operation is quite serious. Dr. Monika K. Goyal, lead author and health expert from the Children’s National Health System (Washington, D.C.), gave a statement to Reuters Health saying that “I’ve seen a lot of patients with appendicitis, it’s a very painful surgical condition”.
She went on to add that “Pain management with opioids is one of the mainstays of treatment”. The lead author and her team were surprised to find out that not even 60 percent (60%) of all kids received analgesia “and among the kids that actually received it, why there were such marked racial differences in use of opioids”.
This is not the first study to reveal racial disparities in emergency rooms, however earlier research has focused on adult patients. This is the first one to look at kids and teens.
To reach these conclusions, Dr. Goyal and her team looked at data gathered by the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey between the years of 2003 and 2010. This led to them studying the cases of almost a million patients, with the oldest of them being 21.
Overall, only 57 percent (57%) of all kids and teens were given some kind of pain meds, and about 41 percent of these patients were given an opioid medication.
But when the researchers split them up in racial groups, they saw that more than 40 percent (40%) of the patients who received pain meds were white kids and teens, and only 21 percent (21%) of the patients who received pain meds were black kids and teens.
Black kids who were in moderate pain had fewer chances of receiving pain meds than white kids who were in moderate pain, and black kids who were in severe pain had fewer chances of receiving opioid meds than white kids who were in severe pain.
Dr. Eric W. Fleegler, health expert from Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, gave a statement of his own stressing that some of the data the research team worked with is older than a decade. He is hopeful that if the information were to be collected today, the results would be a lot less enraging.
What’s more, some of the choices made by medical staffs might be justifiable. Dr. Neil L. Schechter, one of Fleegler’s colleagues, also gave a statement explaining that not all appendicitis patients experience the same level of pain. It varies widely “depending on the duration of symptoms and the degree of inflammation”.
However, he did go on to add that analgesics should typically be prescribed for appendicitis.
Fleegler’s bottom line was that pain matters and that its treatment should center on each individual patient. He believes that every patient has a right to feel reassured that the medical staff will not discriminate against them.
The findings were published recently, in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
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