Study objective: We previously reported that Hispanic ethnicity was an independent risk factor for inadequate analgesic administration among patients presenting to a single emergency department. We then attempted to generalize these findings to other ethnic groups and EDs. Our current study objective is to determine whether black patients with extremity fractures are less likely to receive ED analgesics than similarly injured white patients.
Methods: We conducted the following retrospective cohort study at an urban ED in Atlanta, GA. All black and white patients presenting with new, isolated long-bone fractures over a 40-month period were studied. After abstracting demographic information from the medical record and subsequently removing ethnic identifiers, we submitted the medical record to a physician who recorded characteristics of the patients' injury and treatment. We then submitted the records to a nurse, again blinded to ethnicity, who recorded analgesic administration. We used multiple logistic regression to determine the independent effect of ethnicity on analgesic use while controlling for multiple potential confounders. Our main outcome measure was the proportion of black versus white patients receiving ED analgesics.
Results: The study group consisted of 217 patients, of whom 127 were black and 90 were white. White patients were significantly more likely than black patients to receive ED analgesics (74% versus 57%, P =.01) despite similar records of pain complaints in the medical record. The risk of receiving no analgesic while in the ED was 66% greater for black patients than for white patients (relative risk 1.66, 95% confidence interval, 1.11 to 2.50). This effect persisted after controlling for multiple potential confounders.
Conclusion: Black patients with isolated long-bone fractures were less likely than white patients to receive analgesics in this ED. No covariate measured in this study could account for this effect. Our findings have implications for efforts to improve analgesic practices for all patients.