Regional anaesthesia: risk, consent and complications

Regional anaesthesia: risk, consent and complications
K McCombe, D Bogod
Anaesthesia, 10 January 2021; 76(Suppl 1) pp 18-26
Open Access
The risks of regional anaesthesia relate primarily to the technical nature of the procedure, chief among them being neurological. While rare, the direct relationship between nerve damage and the procedure itself means that patients need to be aware of this complication when consent is sought. In order to give valid consent, a patient must be informed. The extent of the information required has been defined by a 2015 legal ruling which established that the standard is the expectation of a reasonable patient, rather than the information deemed consequential by a reasonable doctor. The implications of this for clinicians are profound, and mean that the process of consent must, for example, include alternatives to the proposed treatment. Additionally, patients must have capacity and give their consent without coercion. Effective communication of risk can be challenging. As well as the barriers to comprehension that can result from language, literacy and numeracy, clinicians need to be aware of their own biases, often in favour of a regional anaesthetic approach. Patients also have biases, and doctors must be aware of these in order to best target their provision of information. Careful use of language and employing adjuncts such as information leaflets and visual aids can help to maximise the individual’s autonomy. Particular care must be taken in special situations such as where patients have capacity issues or time is limited by the emergency nature of the intervention.

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