(HealthDay News) – There are considerable racial and ethnic differences in the use of specialty care and procedures among children diagnosed with autism, according to a study published online June 17 in Pediatrics.

Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, MD, from Mass General Hospital for Children in Boston, and colleagues used a research patient data repository to identify 3,615 patients (2,935 white, 243 Hispanic, 188 African-American, and 249 other) aged 2–21 years with an International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision code of autism (299). Patients were seen at a major academic health center from 2000–2011. The rates of specialty provider visits and procedures were determined by race.

The researchers found that the most striking differences were in use of gastroenterology (GI)/nutrition services, with non-white children significantly less likely to use GI/nutrition specialty providers (odds ratios: African-American, 0.32; Hispanic, 0.32; other, 0.56). GI studies were also significantly less likely in non-white children: colonoscopy (African-American, 0.23; Hispanic, 0.26), endoscopy (African-American, 0.31; Hispanic, 0.27; other, 0.53), and stool studies (African-American, 0.49). Non-white children were also significantly less likely to use neurology specialty providers (African-American, 0.52; Hispanic, 0.4) and psychiatry/psychology specialty providers (African-American, 0.44; Hispanic, 0.6; other, 0.62). Neurologic and other testing was significantly less likely among non-white children: electroencephalogram (Hispanic, 0.53), brain magnetic resonance imaging (African-American, 0.37); Hispanic, 0.62), sleep study (Hispanic, 0.18), and neuropsychiatric testing (Hispanic, 0.55).

“We found racial and ethnic differences among children diagnosed with autism in use of care and procedures,” the authors write.

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