Complications More Common If Language Barrier

Abstract: Association Between Parent Comfort With English and Adverse Events Among Hospitalized Children

Key finding:  Children of parents expressing LCE (limited comfort with English) had 2.1 higher odds of adverse events than children of parents who expressed comfort with English, after controlling for other factors.

Related blog post: No Habla Appendicitis

No Habla Appendicitis

Before today’s blog, I wanted to state that our physicians now can treat Clostridium difficile with fecal microbiota transplant (would have been more relevant to yesterday’s blog: “Gut Microbiome”) :

GI Care for Kids is one of the few places in the region to offer this capability for children (thanks to Jeff Lewis for working to navigate the logistics/regulatory burdens).

Today’s blog: Though physicians make efforts to combat language barriers with translators, the personal connection between physicians and patients is undoubtedly weakened in those with limited English proficiency LEP).  Recently, one of my emergency room colleagues explained that he had ordered a CT scan on a young man in part due to his hispanic ethnicity and concern that this would lead him to overlook a diagnosis of appendicitis.  According to a recent study, my emergency room colleague was right –hispanic ethnicity and language barriers increased the risk for appendiceal perforation (J Pediatr 2014; 164: 1286-91).

The researchers performed a secondary analysis of a prospective, cross-sectional, multi center study of children aged 3-18 years who presented with abdominal pain/possible appendicitis (2009-2010) at 10 tertiary care pediatric emergency departments in the U.S.


  • Of the 2590 patients enrolled, 1001 (38%) had appendicitis.
  • Hispanics with LEP had an odds ratio of 1.44 of having appendiceal perforation.  In addition, these patients were less likely to undergo advanced imaging (OR 0.64)

Bottomline: Patients/families who speak English are more likely to communicate the severity of their medical problem.  Those with limited English proficiency are at increased risk for complications and this extends beyond perforation with appendicitis.

Related blog postHow much radiation from your CT scanner? | gutsandgrowth