Racial disparities in triage of adolescent patients after bullet injury

Erin G. Andrade, Emily J. Onufer, Melissa Thornton, Martin S. Keller, Douglas J.E. Schuerer, L. J. Punch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: While pediatric trauma centers (PTCs) and adult trauma centers (ATCs) exhibit equivalent trauma mortality, the optimal care environment for traumatically injured adolescents remains controversial. Race has been shown to effect triage within emergency departments (EDs) with people of color receiving lower acuity triage scores. We hypothesized that African-American adolescents were more likely triaged to an ATC than a PTC compared with their White peers. METHODS: Institutional trauma databases from a neighboring, urban Level I PTC and ATC were queried for gunshot wounds in adolescents (15-18 years) presenting to the EDfrom2015 to 2017. The PTC and ATC were compared in terms of demographics, services, and outcomes. Results were analyzed using univariate analysis and logistic regression. RESULTS: Among 316 included adolescents, 184 were treated in an ATC versus 132 in a PTC. Patients at the PTC were significantly more likely to be younger (16.1 vs. 17.5 years; p < 0.001), White (16% vs. 5%; p = 0.001), and privately insured (41% vs. 30%; p = 0.002). At each age, the proportion of Whites treated at the PTC exceeded the proportion of African-Americans. At the PTC, patients were more likely to receive inpatient and outpatient social work follow-up (89% vs. 1%, p < 0.001). Adolescents treated at the PTC were less likely to receive opioids (75% vs. 56%, p = 0.001) at discharge and to return to ED within 6 months (25%vs. 11%, p = 0.005). On multivariate logistic regression,African-American adolescentswere less likely to be treated at a PTC (odds ratio, 0.30; 95% confidence interval, 0.10-0.85; p = 0.02) after controlling for age and Injury Severity Score. CONCLUSION: Disparities in triage of African-American and White adolescents after bullet injury lead to unequal care. African-Americans were more likely to be treated at the ATC, which was associated with increased opioid prescription, decreased social work support, and increased return to ED.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-370
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Adult trauma center
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Pediatric trauma center
  • Racial disparities


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