To analyze racial and ethnic disparities in failure to rescue (ie, death) associated with severe maternal morbidity and describe temporal trends.
This was a retrospective cohort study using administrative data. Data for delivery hospitalizations with severe maternal morbidity, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were abstracted from the 1999–2017 National Inpatient Sample. Race and ethnicity were categorized into non-Hispanic White (reference), non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, other, and missing. The outcome was failure to rescue from severe maternal morbidity. Disparities were assessed using the failure-to-rescue rate ratio (ratio of the failure-to-rescue rate in the racial and minority group to the failure-to-rescue rate in White women), adjusted for patient and hospital characteristics. Temporal trends in severe maternal morbidity and failure to rescue were assessed.
During the study period, 73,934,559 delivery hospitalizations were identified, including 993,864 with severe maternal morbidity (13.4/1,000; 95% CI 13.3–13.5). Among women with severe maternal morbidity, 4,328 died (4.3/1,000; 95% CI 4.2–4.5). The adjusted failure-to-rescue rate ratio was 1.79 (95% CI 1.77–1.81) for Black women, 1.39 (95% CI 1.37–1.41) for women of other race and ethnicity, 1.43 (95% CI 1.42–1.45) for women with missing race and ethnicity data, and 1.08 (95% CI 1.06–1.09) for Hispanic women. During the study period, the severe maternal morbidity rate increased significantly in each of the five racial and ethnic groups but started declining in 2012. Meanwhile, the failure-to-rescue rate decreased significantly during the entire study period.
Despite improvement over time, failure to rescue from severe maternal morbidity remains a major contributing factor to excess maternal mortality in racial and ethnic minority women.