Racial disparities in joint replacement use among older adults

Dorothy D Dunlop, Jing Song, Larry M Manheim, Rowland W Chang
Medical Care 2003, 41 (2): 288-98

BACKGROUND: Although joint replacement can restore function for arthritis patients with severe joint disease, this procedure has not been used equally across racial groups. Differences in joint replacement use are assessed from a national sample.

OBJECTIVE: This study evaluates the role of health conditions and economic access to explain differences in joint replacement among older black and Hispanic minorities relative to white persons.

DESIGN: Longitudinal (1993-1995) Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD) study.

SETTING: National probability sample of US community-dwelling older adults.

PATIENT POPULATION: AHEAD participants (n = 6159) aged 69 to 103 years.

MEASUREMENTS: The outcome is subject-reported 2-year use of any arthritis-related joint-replacement. Independent variables are demographics, health needs (arthritis, other medical conditions, functional health), and economic access (income, assets, education, and health insurance).

RESULTS: Older minorities reported arthritis-related joint replacements (black: 0.98%; Hispanic: 0.97%, annually) less frequently compared with white persons (1.48% annually). Older minorities were significantly less likely to use joint replacement compared with white persons (OR, 0.37; 95% CI, 0.20, 0.71) controlling for demographics, and arthritis and other health needs. Disparities remained significant (OR, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.22, 0.98) after additionally controlling for economic medical access. Use was lower among people who depended solely on Medicare compared with those with supplemental health insurance (OR, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.22, 0.95).

CONCLUSIONS: These national data document low rates of arthritis-related joint replacement among older Hispanic persons comparable to black persons. Less use among older minorities compared with white persons is not explained by differences in health needs or economic access. Other cultural and attitudinal factors merit investigation to explain disparities.

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