LATINO VOICES
12/17/2013 12:41 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Why Older Hispanics Are More Likely To Have Post-Op Complications

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Older minority patients, particularly those of Hispanic and African American descent, are more likely than non-Hispanic white seniors to experience post-operative complications. According to research recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS), Hispanic seniors are twice as likely as non-Hispanic white patients to develop nine of 13 common post-operative complications identified by experts.

“Older black and Hispanic patients admitted to hospitals for common surgeries have a disproportionately higher risk of developing complications. The risk of developing certain post-surgical complications, however, differs for men and women — even men and women of the same ethnic and racial backgrounds,” explained lead author Dr. J. Margo Brooks Carthon in a statement.

Experts at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing explored the impact of patient characteristics, including race, ethnicity and sex on post-operative outcome and determined both gender and ethnicity could be linked to specific complications after a procedure. While African Americans had the most significant disparity–being almost 3 times as likely to have 12 out of 13 post-operative complications–Hispanic seniors outpaced non-Hispanic whites in all but 4 categories.

While a number of possible factors are associated with the common issues seen among minority seniors post-procedure, experts suggest the main reason Hispanic and African American patients have more post-surgical complications has to do with the disproportionate presence of chronic health issues affecting those demographics.

“The risk of developing a post operative complication may be attributed to a number of factors. Most pronounced, however, was the effect of pre-existing medical conditions,” said Brooks Carthon. “Our study also suggests the need for further evaluation of patient risk factors prior to surgery and more vigilant surveillance of patients following operative procedures.”

Hispanics and chronic health issues leading to post-operative complications

Hispanics are affected by a number of chronic health issues according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including stroke, diabetes, liver disease, and obesity. Many of these issues are disproportionately represented among the Hispanic population; Hispanics are 1.2 times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be obese according to the Office of Minority Health, and among Mexican American women, 78 percent are overweight or obese, compared to 60.3 percent of the non-Hispanic white women.

Obesity is often the cause of other complicating health factors such as diabetes and heart disease, however, being overweight in and of itself can create a slew of post-operative complications, according to the University of Michigan Health System.

“One manifestation of this public health epidemic is that patients who are obese face a much higher likelihood of very serious problems following surgery,” said Olubukola O. Nafiu, M.D., FRCA, a resident in the Department of Anesthesiology, in a university statement.

In on-going studies, University of Michigan experts have found much higher rates of certain post-operative complications in obese patients such as: heart attack, with obese patients experiencing five times the rate of attack than non-obese patients; wound infection, with a 1.7-times higher rate; peripheral nerve injury, with a four-times higher rate; and urinary tract infection, with a 1.5-times higher rate.

These increased risk factors alone make it necessary to consult with patients on an individual basis regarding post-operative complications, and each chronic illness an individuals has will add certain risks to any hospital surgery. When it comes to minority patients, illnesses traditionally seen among the populations must be taken into account to reduce risk.

Originally published on VOXXI as Older Hispanics more likely to have post-operative complications

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