Background: Recent studies suggest racial disparities in the treatment and outcomes of children with traumatic brain injury (TBI). This study aims to identify race-based clinical and functional outcome differences among pediatric TBI patients in a national database.
Methods: A total of 41,122 patients (ages 2–16 years) who were included in the National Pediatric Trauma Registry (from 1996–2001) were studied. TBI was categorized by Relative Head Injury Severity Score (RHISS) and patients with moderate to severe TBI were included. Individual race groups were compared with white as the majority group. Differences between races in functional outcomes at discharge in three domains—speech, locomotion, and feeding—were determined using multiple logistic regression. Cases were adjusted for age, sex, severity of head injury (using RHISS), severity of injury (using New Injury Severity Score and Pediatric Trauma Score), premorbidities, mechanism, and injury intent.
Results: A total of 7,778 children had moderate or severe TBI with or without associated injuries. All races had similar demographics. Hispanics (n = 1,041) had outcomes comparable to whites (n = 4,762). Black children (n = 1,238) had significantly increased premorbidities, penetrating trauma, and violent intent. They also had higher unadjusted mortality and longer mean intensive care unit and floor stays. After adjustment, there was no difference in the odds of death between black and white children. However, black patients were more likely to be discharged to an inpatient rehabilitation facility and had increased odds of possessing a functional deficit at discharge for all three domains studied.
Conclusion: Black children with traumatic brain injury have worse clinical and functional outcomes at discharge when compared with equivalently injured white children.