Exploring limited English proficiency in the clinical outcomes of pediatric burn patients

Document Type



Paediatric Surgery


Introduction: Limited English proficiency (LEP) is linked to lower health care access and worse clinical outcomes. This study aims to explore the potential role of LEP on clinical outcomes of pediatric burn patients.
Methods: We conducted a single-institution retrospective study of burn patients presenting at a tertiary pediatric burn referral program between January 2016 and December 2020. Patient demographics, burn mechanism, severity, interventions, and primary patient language were abstracted from the electronic health record. Clinical outcomes (length of stay [LOS], clinic follow-up, and 30-day readmission) of patients with LEP were compared to patients with English as primary language (EPL).
Results: Thirty-five (4.2%) patients with LEP were identified of 840 total patients. On univariate analysis, there was no difference in mean total body surface area (6.5% versus 6.1%), report of physical abuse (2.9% versus 8.9%), or need for grafting (14.3% versus 15.0%) comparing patients with LEP to those with EPL. Patients with LEP were more likely to have a scald burn (68.6% versus 48.9%, P = 0.025) and less likely to have a flame/fire burn (20.0% versus 37.6%, P = 0.047). On multivariate analysis, there was no difference between patients with LEP compared to patients with EPL for LOS (2.9 versus 3.5 d), 30-day readmissions (5.6% versus 5.7%), or clinic follow-up (80.6% versus 75.0%). In patients with >10% total body surface area, patients with LEP had a longer emergency department LOS (277 min versus 145 min, P = 0.06) but no difference in outcome measures.
Conclusions: Pediatric patients with LEP were not found to have worse burn outcomes compared to EPL patients in our patient sample. However, a true association is difficult to determine given the small sample size of LEP patients and the potential underestimation of language discordancy as recorded in the electronic medical record. Further research is needed to better explore the role of primary language and health communication as a social determinant of health in pediatric burn patients.


Issue no. is not provided by the author/publisher. This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Surgical Research