Racial disparities in treatment of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms

J Vasc Surg. 2023 Feb;77(2):406-414. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2022.08.009. Epub 2022 Aug 18.


Objective: The Society for Vascular Surgery has recommended immediate transfer of patients with ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms (rAAAs) to a regional center when feasible. However, Black patients might be less likely to be transferred and more likely to be turned down for repair. We, therefore, examined the transfer rates, turndown rates, and outcomes for Black vs White patients presenting with rAAAs in two large databases.

Methods: We examined all rAAA repairs in the Vascular Quality Initiative from 2003 to 2020 to evaluate the transfer rates and outcomes for Black vs White patients. We used the National Inpatient Sample from 2004 to 2015 to examine the turndown rates. Mixed effects logistic regression, Cox regression, and marginal effects modeling were used to study the interaction between race, insurance status, surgery type (open repair vs endovascular aortic aneurysm repair), and hospital volume.

Results: We identified 4935 patients with rAAAs in the Vascular Quality Initiative (6.2% Black) and 48,489 in the National Inpatient Sample (6.0% Black). The rates of transfer were high; however, Black patients were significantly less likely to undergo transfer before repair compared with White patients (49% Black vs 62% White; P = .002). The result was consistent in both crude and adjusted analyses when considering only stable patients and was not modified by insurance status, surgery type, or hospital volume. No significant differences were found in perioperative mortality (22% vs 26%; P = .098) or complications (52% vs 52%; P = .64). However, Black patients were significantly more likely to be turned down for repair (37% vs 28%; odds ratio, 1.5; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-1.9; P < .001). A significant interaction was found between race and insurance status with respect to turndown. Patients with private insurance had undergone surgery at a similar rate, regardless of race. However, among patients with Medicare or Medicaid/self-pay, Black patients were less likely than were White patients to undergo repair (Medicare, 64% vs 72%; P = .001; Medicaid/self-pay, 43% vs 61%; P = .031). Patients with Medicaid/self-pay were also less likely to undergo repair than were patients of the same race with either Medicare or private insurance (P < .05).

Conclusions: We found that Black patients with rAAAs are poorly served by the current systems of interhospital transfer in the United States, because they less often undergo transfer before repair. Although the postoperative outcomes appeared similar, this finding could be falsely optimistic, because Black patients, especially the underinsured, were turned down for repair more often even after adjustment. Significant work is needed to better understand the reasons underlying these disparities and identify the targets to improve the care of Black patients with rAAAs.

Keywords: Abdominal aortic aneurysm; Disparities; Racial disparities; Rupture; Ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm; Turndown.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal* / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal* / etiology
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal* / surgery
  • Aortic Rupture* / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Rupture* / etiology
  • Aortic Rupture* / surgery
  • Blood Vessel Prosthesis Implantation* / adverse effects
  • Endovascular Procedures* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology