Decisional capacity to consent to treatment and anaesthesia in patients over the age of 60 undergoing major orthopaedic surgery

Decisional capacity to consent to treatment and anaesthesia in patients over the age of 60 undergoing major orthopaedic surgery
Research Article 
Gabriele Mandarelli, Giovanna Parmigiani, Felice Carabellese, Silvia Codella, Paolo Roma, Domitilla Brancadoro, Andrea Ferretti, Lucio Alessandro, Giovanni Pinto, Stefano Ferracuti
Medicine Science and the Law, 1 August 2019 
Abstract
Despite growing attention to the ability of patients to provide informed consent to treatment in different medical settings, few studies have dealt with the issue of informed consent to major orthopaedic surgery in those over the age of 60. This population is at risk of impaired decision-making capacity (DMC) because older age is often associated with a decline in cognitive function, and they often present with anxiety and depressive symptoms, which could also affect their capacity to consent to treatment. Consent to major orthopaedic surgery requires the patient to understand, retain and reason about complex procedures. This study was undertaken to extend the literature on decisional capacity to consent to surgery and anaesthesia of patients over the age of 60 undergoing major orthopaedic surgery. Recruited patients (N=83) were evaluated using the Aid to Capacity Evaluation, the Beck Depression Inventory, the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory Y, the Mini-Mental State Examination and a visual analogue scale for measuring pain symptomatology. Impairment of medical DMC was common in the overall sample, with about 50% of the recruited patients showing a doubtful ability, or overt inability, to provide informed consent. Poor cognitive functioning was associated with reduced medical DMC, although no association was found between decisional capacity and depressive, anxiety and pain symptoms. These findings underline the need of an in-depth assessment of capacity in older patients undergoing major orthopaedic surgery.

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