Racial Disparities in Documented Chief Complaints and Diagnoses in Sepsis Patients

Helen Liu, Stephen McCroskery, Vignesh Rajasekaran, Anne S. Linker, Jashvant Poeran, Tuyet Trinh Truong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Using History and Physical Examination (H&P) notes, we investigated potential racial differences in documented chief complaints and problems among sepsis patients admitted to the intensive care unit. Methods: Patient records from Medical Information Mart for Intensive Care (MIMIC-III) dataset indicating a diagnosis of sepsis were included. First recorded clinical notes for each hospital admission were assessed; free text information was specifically extracted on (1) chief complaints, and (2) problems recorded in the Assessment & Plan (A&P) section. The top 10 for each were compared between Black and White patients. Results: In initial H&P notes of 17 434 sepsis patients (n = 1229 Black and n = 9806 White), the top 10 most common chief complaints were somewhat similar between Black and White patients. However, relative differences existed in terms of ranking, specifically for altered mental status which was more commonly reported in Black versus White patients (11.7% vs 7.8% P <.001). Among text in the A&P, sepsis was documented significantly less frequently among Black versus White patients: 11.8% versus 14.3%, P =.001. Racial differences were not detected in vital signs and laboratory values. Conclusions: This analysis supports the hypothesis that there may be racial differences in early sepsis presentation and possible provider interpretation of these complaints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-634
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Intensive Care Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • chief complaints
  • clinical notes
  • documentation
  • race
  • sepsis


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