Previous studies have investigated the impact of social determinants of health, such as the type of healthcare insurance and household income, on children and adolescents with ACL tears. However, despite the increasing incidence of ACL injury in young patients and a substantial proportion of families who may prefer languages other than English, the relationship between language and clinical care remains unclear.
To investigate the relationship between language and the care of children and adolescents with ACL tears, we asked: (1) Is a preferred language other than English (PLOE) associated with a delay between ACL injury and surgery? (2) Is a PLOE associated with a greater odds of a patient experiencing a meniscal tear and undergoing a meniscectomy than in those who prefer English?
We treated 591 patients surgically for ACL injuries between 2011 and 2021. Of those, we considered patients aged 18 years or younger who underwent primary ACL reconstruction for this retrospective, comparative study. Five percent (31 of 591) of patients were excluded because the date of injury was not clearly documented, 2% (11 of 591) were revision reconstructions, and 1% (6 of 591) underwent procedures that were intentionally delayed or staged, leaving 92% (543 of 591) for analysis. The mean age was 16 ± 2 years, and 51% (276 of 543) of patients were boys. The family’s preferred language was noted, as were demographic data, time between injury and surgery, and intraoperative findings. A language other than English was preferred by 21% (113 of 543) of patients. Of these, 94% (106 of 113) preferred Spanish. In a univariate analysis, we used independent-samples t-tests, Mann-Whitney U-tests, and Fisher exact tests, as appropriate. Purposeful-entry multivariable regression analyses were used to determine whether PLOE was associated with increased time to surgery, concomitant meniscus injury, or performance of meniscectomy while adjusting for confounding variables. Variables were included in multivariable models if they met the threshold for statistical significance in univariate testing (p < 0.05).
The median time between injury and ACL reconstruction was shorter in families who preferred English compared with those with a PLOE (69 days [IQR 80] versus 103 days [IQR 107)]; p < 0.001). After controlling for potentially confounding variables like insurance and age, we found that patients whose families had a PLOE had greater odds of undergoing surgery more than 60 days after injury (OR 2.2 [95% CI 1.3 to 3.8]; p = 0.005) and more than 90 days after injury (OR 1.8 [95% CI 1.1 to 2.8]; p = 0.02). After controlling for insurance, age, and other factors, PLOE was not associated with surgical delay beyond 180 days, concomitant meniscal tears, or performance of meniscectomy.
In this study of children and adolescents undergoing primary ACL reconstruction, patients whose families prefer a language other than English experienced a longer delay between injury and surgery. In areas with a large proportion of families with a PLOE, partnerships with primary care clinicians, emergency departments, schools, athletic teams, and community organizations may improve efficiency in the care of children with ACL injuries. Clinicians proficient in other languages, reliable interpreter services, and translated references and resources may also be impactful. Our results suggest a need for further research on the experiences, needs, and long-term outcomes of these patients, as well as the association of preferred language with results after surgery.
Level of Evidence
Level III, therapeutic study.