Understanding the Surgical Experience for African-Americans and Caucasians With Enhanced Recovery

Academic Article


  • Introduction: Racial/ethnic disparities in surgical outcomes exist. Enhanced recovery programs (ERPs) have reduced some racial/ethnic disparities, but it remains unclear if disparities in experiences are also reduced. The purpose of this study was to use qualitative methods to better understand the surgical experience for African-American and Caucasian patients in the setting of an ERP. Methods: Using purposeful sampling at a minority-serving institution, we recruited African-American and Caucasian patients who had undergone colorectal surgery under an ERP to six focus groups. Participants identified barriers and facilitators to a positive, or negative, surgical experience. Audio recordings were transcribed and analyzed using an indicative thematic approach with NVivo 10 software (QSR International). Results: Forty-three patients (15 African-Americans and 28 Caucasians) participated in six focus groups. Six themes were identified by patients to be important in surgery: 1) knowledge about colorectal surgery, 2) obtaining information, 3) quality of information, 4) setting expectations about surgery, 5) following preoperative and postoperative instructions, and 6) confidence in surgery outcomes. For both racial/ethnic groups, patients felt that more information could have been provided, information should be given at their level of understanding, and trust in the physician made them feel confident in a positive outcome. African-American patients described experiences of having incorrect or no expectations on surgical outcomes, being provided inconsistent information, and feeling misled. African-Americans also described following instructions from family members and valued the importance of diet and exercise in recovery. Conclusions: African-American and Caucasian surgical patients have varied surgical experiences even under an ERP. All patients, however, valued the ability to obtain, process, and understand health information during the surgical process. These elements define “health literacy” and suggest the importance of providing health literacy–sensitive care in surgery.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Dos Santos Marques IC; Herbey II; Theiss LM; Hollis RH; Knight SJ; Davis TC; Fouad M; Chu DI
  • Start Page

  • 12
  • End Page

  • 22
  • Volume

  • 250