Disparities in outcomes of adult sepsis are well described by insurance status and race and ethnicity. There is a paucity of data looking at disparities in sepsis outcomes in children. We aimed to determine whether hospital outcomes in childhood severe sepsis were influenced by race or ethnicity and insurance status, a proxy for socioeconomic position.
This population-based, retrospective cohort study used data from the 2016 database release from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID). The 2016 KID included 3 117 413 discharges, accounting for 80% of national paediatric discharges from 4200 US hospitals across 47 states. Using multilevel logistic regression, clustered by hospital, we tested the association between race or ethnicity and insurance status and hospital mortality, adjusting for individual-level and hospital-level characteristics, in children with severe sepsis. The secondary outcome of length of hospital stay was examined through multilevel time to event (hospital discharge) regression, with death as a competing risk.
12 297 children (aged 0–21 years) with severe sepsis with or without shock were admitted to 1253 hospitals in the 2016 KID dataset. 1265 (10·3%) of 12 297 patients did not have race or ethnicity data recorded, 15 (0·1%) were missing data on insurance, and 1324 (10·8%) were transferred out of hospital, resulting in a final cohort of 9816 children. Black children had higher odds of death than did White children (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1·19, 95 % CI 1·02–1·38; p=0·028), driven by higher Black mortality in the south (1·30, 1·04–1·62; p=0·019) and west (1·58, 1·05–2·38; p=0·027) of the USA. We found evidence of longer hospital stays for Hispanic children (adjusted hazard ratio 0·94, 95% CI 0·88–1·00; p=0·049) and Black children (0·88, 0·82–0·94; p=0·0002), particularly Black neonates (0·53, 95% CI 0·36–0·77; p=0·0011). We observed no difference in survival between publicly and privately insured children; however, other insurance status (self-pay, no charge, and other) was associated with increased mortality (adjusted OR 1·30, 95% CI 1·04–1·61; p=0·021).
In this large, representative analysis of paediatric severe sepsis in the USA, we found evidence of outcome disparities by race or ethnicity and insurance status. Our findings suggest that there might be differential sepsis recognition, approaches to treatment, access to health-care services, and provider bias that contribute to poorer sepsis outcomes for racial and ethnic minority patients and those of lower socioeconomic position. Studies are warranted to investigate the mechanisms of poorer sepsis outcomes in Black and Hispanic children.