Lower rates of diagnostic imaging have been observed among Black children compared with White children in pediatric emergency departments. Although the racial composition of the pediatric population served by each hospital differs, it is unclear whether this is associated with overall imaging rates at the hospital level, and in particular how it may be associated with the difference in imaging rates between Black and White children at a given hospital.
To examine the association between the diversity of the pediatric population seen at each pediatric ED and variation in diagnostic imaging.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Cross-sectional analysis of ED visits by patients younger than 18 years at 38 children's hospitals from January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2019, using data from the Pediatric Health Information System. Data were analyzed from April to September 2021.
Proportion of patients from minoritized groups cared for at each hospital.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The primary outcome was receipt of an imaging test defined as radiography, ultrasonography, computed tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging; adjusted odds ratios (aORs) were calculated to measure differences in imaging by race and ethnicity by hospital, and the correlation between the proportion of patients from minoritized groups cared for at each hospital and the aOR for receipt of diagnostic imaging by race and ethnicity was examined.
There were 12 310 344 ED visits (3 477 674 [28.3%] among Hispanic patients; 3 212 915 [26.1%] among non-Hispanic Black patients; 4 415 747 [35.9%] among non-Hispanic White patients; 6 487 660 [52.7%] among female patients) by 5 883 664 pediatric patients (mean [SD] age, 5.84 [5.23] years) to the 38 hospitals during the study period, of which 3 527 866 visits (28.7%) involved at least 1 diagnostic imaging test. Diagnostic imaging was performed in 1 508 382 visits (34.2%) for non-Hispanic White children, 790 961 (24.6%) for non-Hispanic Black children, and 907 222 (26.1%) for Hispanic children (P < .001). Non-Hispanic Black patients were consistently less likely to receive diagnostic imaging than non-Hispanic White patients at each hospital, and for all imaging modalities. There was a significant correlation between the proportion of patients from minoritized groups cared for at the hospital and greater imaging difference between non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black patients (correlation coefficient, -0.37; 95% CI, -0.62 to -0.07; P = .02).
Conclusions and Relevance
In this cross-sectional study, hospitals with a higher percentage of pediatric patients from minoritized groups had larger differences in imaging between non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic White patients, with non-Hispanic White patients consistently more likely to receive diagnostic imaging. These findings emphasize the urgent need for interventions at the hospital level to improve equity in imaging in pediatric emergency medicine.