Little is understood about the role that health disparities play in the treatment and management of brain tumors in children. The purpose of this study was to determine if health disparities impact the timing of initial and follow-up care of patients, as well as overall survival.
The authors conducted a retrospective study of pediatric patients (< 18 years of age) previously diagnosed with, and initially treated for, a primary CNS tumor between 2005 and 2012 at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Primary outcomes included time from symptom presentation to initial neurosurgery consultation and percentage of missed follow-up visits for ancillary or core services (defined as no-show visits). Core services were defined as healthcare interactions directly involved with CNS tumor management, whereas ancillary services were appointments that might be related to overall care of the patient but not directly focused on treatment of the tumor. Statistical analysis included Pearson’s chi-square test, nonparametric univariable tests, and multivariable linear regression. Statistical significance was set a priori at p < 0.05.
The analysis included 198 patients. The median time from symptom onset to initial presentation was 30.0 days. A mean of 7.45% of all core visits were missed. When comparing African American and Caucasian patients, there was no significant difference in age at diagnosis, timing of initial symptoms, or tumor grade. African American patients missed significantly more core visits than Caucasian patients (p = 0.007); this became even more significant when controlling for other factors in the multivariable analysis (p < 0.001). African American patients were more likely to have public insurance, while Caucasian patients were more likely to have private insurance (p = 0.025). When evaluating survival, no health disparities were identified.
No significant health disparities were identified when evaluating the timing of presentation and survival. A racial disparity was noted when evaluating missed follow-up visits. Future work should focus on identifying reasons for differences and whether social determinants of health affect other aspects of treatment.
ABBREVIATIONSMCJCHV = Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt; SES = socioeconomic status.
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