Are patients truly informed? A retrospective chart review of the documentation of informed consent in laparoscopic cholecystectomy

Are patients truly informed? A retrospective chart review of the documentation of informed consent in laparoscopic cholecystectomy
Erin Williams, Raj Selvam, Wilma Hopman, Sulaiman Nanji
Canadian Journal of Surgery, 29 July 2021; 64(4)
Research on informed consent (IC) has traditionally focused on the documentation of the discussion with patients of potential complications. We sought to examine the completeness of documentation for all elements of IC for laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC): potential complications, alternatives to LC and details of the procedure. Differences in the documentation of IC for elective and emergent LC were examined.
A retrospective chart review of patients undergoing LC at our institution between 2015 and 2017 was performed. Completeness of documentation was defined as documentation of all 3 elements of IC in the clinic note, the operating room note or the consent form itself. Data were analyzed descriptively. We compared documention for emergent and elective cases as well as documentation by residents and attending physicians using t tests.
A total of 270 patients were included in the analysis. Only 5 (2%) had complete documentation of all elements of IC. Documentation of potential complications was noted in 232 cases (86%), of which 58 (25%) were elective and 174 (75%) were emergent. Details were noted in 28 (10%) cases, of which 21 (75%) were elective and 7 (25%) were emergent. Alternatives were documented the least frequently: they were documented in 23 cases (9%), of which 20 (87%) were elective and 3 (13%) were emergent. Residents performed better than attending physicians in documenting IC discussions in clinic notes and on consent forms, but not in operating room notes.
Documentation of the elements of IC for LC was poor. Potential complications were the most frequently documented element of IC; alternatives and details were often omitted. Future studies comparing audiotaped IC conversations with the documentation of IC are warranted. The use of procedure-specific consent forms for LC may facilitate documentation.

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