An Evaluation of Racial Diversity in Craniofacial Surgery Literature

J Craniofac Surg. 2022 Jan-Feb;33(1):76-80. doi: 10.1097/SCS.0000000000007972.


Implicit bias can lead to discrimination of certain populations within healthcare. Representation in medical literature is no exception and it is hypothesized that images with lighter skin tone are more prevalent than darker skin tones in craniofacial literature. Clinical photographs and figure graphics from 5 journals were examined for pre-defined years. Annals of Plastic Surgery, Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journals were reviewed. All craniofacial-focused articles containing at least one color image depicting human skin were included. 10,477 images and 627 graphics were evaluated using the Fitzpatrick scale as a guide. Most journals trended toward broader inclusion of nonwhite photographs and graphics over time. In 2016, 47% of articles published in Journal of Craniofacial Surgery included nonwhite images compared to Annals of Plastic Surgery (16%), Aesthetic Surgery Journal (40%), Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery (25%), and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (7%). Comparison of domestic and international publications demonstrated that author's country of origin impacted the percentage of nonwhite clinical photographs for most journals. Comparisons of publications by country demonstrated increased diversity in Asia and the Middle East for clinical photographs but not graphics. The frequency of nonwhite figure graphics was staggeringly low, identified in only 18 articles across all journals and years. Craniofacial literature more commonly reflects white skin tones. The trend over time suggests increasing inclusion of racial diversity in clinical photographs; however, figure graphics remain less racially diverse. Time, country of origin, and publishing journal appear to play a role.

MeSH terms

  • Bias, Implicit
  • Humans
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures*
  • Publications
  • Racial Groups
  • Surgery, Plastic*