Surgeon clinical practice variation and patient preferences during the informed consent discussion: a mixed-methods analysis in lumbar spine surgery

Surgeon clinical practice variation and patient preferences during the informed consent discussion: a mixed-methods analysis in lumbar spine surgery
Ali Zahrai, Kunal Bhanot, Xin Y. Mei, Eric Crawford, Zachary Tan, Albert Yee, Valerie Palda
Canadian Journal of Surgery, 10 October 2019; 63(3)
Open Access
Abstract
Background
Patients with lumbar disc herniation may greatly benefit from microdiscectomy. Although spine surgeons performing microdiscectomy routinely obtain informed consent, the potential adverse events they disclose often vary. Moreover, little is known about what disclosures are deemed most valuable by patients. The aim of this mixed-methods study was to determine practice variations among spine surgeons in regard to the disclosure of potential adverse events during informed consent discussions
for lumbar microdiscectomy and to determine which topics patients perceived to be valuable in the consent discussion.
Methods
A survey evaluating the frequency with which spine surgeons disclose 15 potential adverse events related to lumbar microdiscectomy during informed consent discussions was distributed among Canadian Spine Society members. Additionally, semistructured interviews were conducted with preoperative patients, postoperative patients, attending spine surgeons, spine fellows and orthopedic residents. Interview transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis with open coding.
Results
Fifty-one Canadian Spine Society members completed the survey. The number of potential adverse events not routinely discussed was greater among orthopedic surgeons than among neurosurgeons (relative risk 1.83; 95% confidence interval 1.22–2.73; p = 0.003). Three preoperative patients, 7 postoperative patients, 6 attending spine surgeons, 3 spine fellows and 5 orthopedic residents participated in the semistructured interviews. The interviews identified gaps in information provided to patients, particularly on topics relating to postoperative care such as expected recovery time, activity restrictions and need for a caregiver.
Conclusion
There is variation in the disclosure of potential adverse events during informed consent discussions for lumbar microdiscectomy among Canadian spine surgeons. Patients desire more information regarding their postoperative care. Further research should focus on developing guidelines to reduce practice variation and optimize the effectiveness of consent discussions.

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