Consent for orthopaedic trauma surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic

Consent for orthopaedic trauma surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic
Selmi H, Davies A, Walker J, Heaton T, Sabharwal S, Dani M, Fertleman M, Reilly P
BMJ Open Quality, 1 June 2022, 11(2)
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a series of new challenges to the management of surgical patients. The consent process relies on a foundation of open and non-coerced discussion between clinician and patient, which includes all the potential risks of surgery. This must be updated to incorporate the additional risks of surgery during the pandemic including infection with the SARS-CoV-2 and increased risks of complications with the potential requirement for intensive care support.
The aim of this multi-cycle quality improvement project was to ensure all patients were fully informed of the risks of developing COVID-19 and the possible need for intensive care unit (ICU) support.
We investigated the quality of the consent process for patients undergoing surgery for trauma at our major trauma centre. Our baseline data collection included a review of all orthopaedic trauma consent forms over a 4-week period in March 2020. We subsequently undertook three further Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles over separate 4-week periods. First, in June 2020, after education measures and presentation of baseline data, second in July 2020 after further education and regular digital reminders were sent to staff, and third in September 2021 after the implementation of an electronic consent form.
At baseline, only 2.6% of consent forms mentioned the risk of COVID-19 and none mentioned the risk of requiring ITU support. Through three PDSA cycles this increased to 97% of cases where consent forms displayed the additional risks of COVID-19 and the potential need for ITU admission.
Our quality improvement project improved the informed consent procedure at our trust. By incorporating these additional risks into the template of an electronic consent form, we hope to achieve sustained improvement in practice.

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