Scoping review on the state of racial disparities literature in the treatment of neurosurgical disease: a call for action

Neurosurg Focus. 2023 Nov;55(5):E3. doi: 10.3171/2023.8.FOCUS23466.


Objective: Racial disparities are ubiquitous across medicine in the US. This study aims to assess the evidence of racial disparities within neurosurgery and across its subspecialties, with a specific goal of quantifying the distribution of articles devoted to either identifying, understanding, or reducing disparities.

Methods: The authors searched the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Scopus databases by using keywords to represent the concepts of neurosurgery, patients, racial disparities, and specific study types. Two independent reviewers screened the article titles and abstracts for relevance. A third reviewer resolved conflicts. Data were then extracted from the included articles and each article was categorized into one of three phases: identifying, understanding, or reducing disparities. This review was conducted in accordance with the PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) guidelines.

Results: Three hundred seventy-one studies published between 1985 and 2023 were included. The distribution of racial disparities literature was not equally spread among specialties, with spine representing approximately 48.3% of the literature, followed by tumor (22.1%) and general neurosurgery (12.9%). Most studies were dedicated to identifying racial disparities (83.6%). The proportion of literature devoted to understanding and reducing disparities was much lower (15.1% and 1.3%, respectively). Black patients were the most negatively impacted racial/ethnic group in the review (63.3%). The Hispanic or Latino ethnic group was the second most negatively impacted (25.1%). The following categories-other outcomes (28.0%), the offering of treatment (21.6%), complications (18.6%), and survival (16.7%)-represented the most frequently measured outcomes.

Conclusions: Although strides have been taken to identify racial disparities within neurosurgery, fewer studies have focused on understanding and reducing these disparities. The tremendous rise of literature within this domain but the relative paucity of solutions necessitates the study of targeted interventions to provide equitable care for all patients undergoing neurosurgical treatment.

Keywords: health outcomes; racial disparities; socioeconomic.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American
  • Ethnicity
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Neurosurgery*
  • Racial Groups