Study: Nonwhite ICU patients get less oxygen treatment than needed

Often these stories say nonwhite but they should state that white is the default when it comes to medical care and equipment. Research for most medications, group study participants, and medical data are based on white men. People with medium to dark skin will not get enough oxygen because of their skin color. My wife is olive toned and I’m pretty naturally tanned myself almost ochre. We aren’t white or black. It’s a shame that people die because they are not fair skinned enough for life saving equipment.

Now make that patient a medium to dark skin woman complaining about abdominal pain for years or dull chest pain for months or shortest of breath in the ER right now? Will she get the care she needs?

“A flaw in a widely used medical device that measures oxygen levels causes critically ill Asians, Blacks and Hispanics to receive less supplemental oxygen to help them breathe than white patients, according to data from a large study published on Monday.

“Pulse oximeters clip onto a fingertip and pass red and infrared light through the skin to gauge oxygen levels in the blood. It has been known since the 1970s that skin pigmentation can throw off readings, but the discrepancies were not believed to affect patient care.

“Among 3,069 patients treated in a Boston intensive care unit between 2008 and 2019, people of color were given significantly less supplemental oxygen than would be considered optimal compared to white people because of inaccuracies in pulse oximeter readings related to their skin pigment, the study found.

“A female patient treated by a female physician is less likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit compared to a male patient treated by a male physician, according to researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center .

“This gender bias, explored in a paper published in the current issue of QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, seems to occur most often when female doctors are recommending treatment for critically ill women.

“Previous studies show physicians are less likely to recognize symptoms that present differently in women, such as atypical chest pains, which can alter patient management and postpone delivery of crucial treatment,” says Dr. Iftach Sagy, a researcher at Soroka’s Clinical Research Center and a lecturer at the BGU Faculty of Health Sciences .

“For the first time, we’ve demonstrated that a possible gender bias can influence decisions about who should be admitted to an ICU.”

“The study, which followed 831 patients admitted to the resuscitation room in the emergency department at Soroka from 2011 to 2012, showed female physicians treating women were less likely to admit their patients to the hospital’s restricted ICU, where beds and other resources are limited.

“According to the findings, female physicians admitted approximately 20 percent fewer of their female patients to the ICU than did male physicians, and 12 percent fewer female patients than male patients to the intensive cardiac care unit.


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Study: Nonwhite ICU patients get less oxygen treatment than needed