Surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic: Are we obtaining informed consent?

Surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic: Are we obtaining informed consent?
Emily Robinson, Joseph Ayathamattam, Holly Harris, Malcolm McFall
British Journal of Surgery, 28 October 2021; 108(Supplement 7)
It was estimated that 1 in 4 inpatients with COVID-19 acquired the virus whilst admitted in December 2020. Surgical patients that contract COVID-19 have poor outcomes, with mortality rates as high as 24% and risk of pulmonary complications as high as 50%. The Royal College of Surgeons of England published COVID-19 consenting guidelines in June 2020.
To identify the proportion of surgical patients who were informed of the risk of acquiring COVID-19 during the consenting process at two District General Hospitals.
The consent forms of 220 surgical patients who had either elective or emergency surgery during the second COVID-19 lockdown were reviewed retrospectively (1/11/2020-20/11/2020). This included General Surgery, Trauma and Orthopaedics and Urology. Patients with incomplete notes or who lacked capacity were excluded.
In total, 193 patients were included. We found that 41.5% of patients were consented for the risk of acquiring COVID-19 peri-operatively. This did not vary significantly between elective and non-elective patients.
Our study shows that current practice does not meet national recommendations. In order to provide informed consent, surgeons must engage in emerging research regarding the local prevalence of COVID-19 and the implications of infection during the peri-operative period. Only with this knowledge, will surgeons be able to balance the risks and benefits on a case by case basis, to provide the patient with necessary information for consent. We recommend that trusts adopt a COVID-19 consenting policy, as part of the pre-operative assessment.

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