A portrait of Dr. Andrew Venteicher (left) and, separately, of Erin Marcotte, MPH, PhD (right) in a collage.

Research brief: Racial disparities in surgery recommendations for patients with brain tumors

University of Minnesota Medical School researchers found that a patient’s race may influence recommendations for surgical removal of brain tumors. According to their analysis, published in The Lancet, Black patients were independently associated with higher odds of being recommended against surgical resection in the four most common brain tumors compared with white patients. And, patients of unknown race had significantly higher odds of recommendation against surgical resection for pituitary adenoma and vestibular schwannoma. 

“Racial disparities have existed historically throughout healthcare but are often attributed to socioeconomic inequities. New data collection and analysis techniques allow us to control for these factors and start to look at whether bias is happening at a provider level,” said Andrew Venteicher, MD, PhD, a Masonic Cancer Center member, assistant professor of neurosurgery at the U of M Medical School, and neurosurgeon with M Health Fairview. He adds, “Clearly, more work is needed to identify these biases and educate providers on how to address them.” 

The research team studied more than 600,000 U.S. patients who were diagnosed with an intracranial tumor in the last five decades. When compared to white patients, Black patients were more likely to be recommended against surgical removal of their tumor for the four most common intracranial tumors: meningioma, glioblastoma, pituitary adenoma and vestibular schwannoma. This was independent of the tumor size, patient demographics, and socioeconomic status of the patient. 

These findings provide a foundation for future studies that will help us gain further insight into unrecognized racial bias in clinical decision-making, determine the impact of those biases on patient outcomes, and identify mechanisms to reduce those biases. 

The research team would like to acknowledge support from the Neurosurgery Research & Education Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Sontag Foundation, and V Foundation for Cancer Research.

For media requests, please contact Alex Smith, media relations specialist, U of M Medical School, a-smith@umn.edu