Elderly blacks and Hispanics have a greater risk of postoperative complications, which are largely explained by procedure type and health care status and differ between men and women, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

J. Margo Brooks Carthon, Ph.D., R.N., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues examined the incidence of 13 postoperative complications among 587,314 patients (65 years and older) undergoing general, orthopedic, or vascular surgery. Of these, 86 percent were white, 6 percent were black, and 8 percent were Hispanic.

The researchers found that the risk of postoperative complications was significantly higher for 12 complications among blacks (odds ratios ranging from 1.09 to 2.69) and for nine complications among Hispanics (odds ratios ranging from 1.11 to 1.82) compared with whites. However, these were substantially diminished after adjusting for hospital and patient characteristics, and many of the race-based differences were different for men and women.

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“Older black and Hispanic individuals have greater odds than white individuals of developing a vast majority of postoperative complications,” Carthon and colleagues conclude. “Procedure type and health status largely explained differences in postoperative complication risk, which are frequently conditional on sex.”