Racial and Ethnic Differences in Elective Versus Emergency Surgery for Colorectal Cancer : Annals of Surgery

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Racial and Ethnic Differences in Elective Versus Emergency Surgery for Colorectal Cancer

Howard, Ryan MD*; Hendren, Samantha MD, MPH*,†; Patel, Minal PhD, MPH; Gunaseelan, Vidhya MBA, MS, MHA§; Wixson, Matthew MD§; Waljee, Jennifer MD, MPH, MS*; Englesbe, Michael MD*,†; Bicket, Mark C. MD, PhD‡,§,∥

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Annals of Surgery 278(1):p e51-e57, July 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000005667



To evaluate differences in presentation and outcomes of surgery for colorectal cancer.


Although racial and socioeconomic disparities in colorectal cancer outcomes are well documented, disparities in access affecting disease presentation are less clear.


We conducted a statewide retrospective study of patients who underwent resection for colorectal cancer between January 1, 2015, and April 30, 2021. The primary outcome was undergoing emergency surgery. Secondary outcomes included preoperative evaluation and postoperative outcomes. Covariates of interest included race/ethnicity, social deprivation index, and insurance type.


A total of 4869 patients underwent surgery for colorectal cancer, of whom 1122 (23.0%) underwent emergency surgery. Overall, 28.1% of Black non-Hispanic patients and 22.5% of White non-Hispanic patients underwent emergency surgery. On multivariable logistic regression, Black non-Hispanic race was independently associated with a 5.8 (95% CI, 0.3–11.3) percentage point increased risk of emergency surgery compared with White non-Hispanic race. Patients who underwent emergency surgery were significantly less likely to have preoperative carcinoembryonic antigen measurement, staging for rectal cancer, and wound/ostomy consultation. Patients who underwent emergency surgery had a higher incidence of 30-day mortality (5.5% vs 1.0%, P<0.001), positive surgical margins (11.1% vs 4.9%, P<0.001), complications (29.2% vs 16.0%, P<0.001), readmissions (12.5% vs 9.6%, P=0.005), and reoperations (12.2% vs 8.2%, P<0.001).


Among patients with colorectal cancer, Black non-Hispanic patients were more likely to undergo emergency surgery than White non-Hispanic patients, suggesting they may face barriers to timely screening and evaluation. Undergoing emergency surgery was associated with incomplete oncologic evaluation, increased incidence of postoperative complications including mortality, and increased surgical margin positivity. These results suggest that racial and ethnic differences in the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer impact near-term and long-term outcomes.

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