Background: Recent judicial decisions involving informed consent have led to some medical practitioners altering the way they obtain consent. The aim of this study was to determine the degree to which patients understood the risks associated with a surgical procedure after giving routine consent and whether providing additional detailed verbal and/or written information improved their understanding. It was further determined whether the provision of more extensive information altered patients' anxiety levels.
Methods: Patients undergoing femoral popliteal bypass or carotid surgery were randomized to obtain either routine consent only or routine consent with verbal or written or verbal and written consent. Patients undertook a pre-operative risk and complication questionnaire, a pre- and postoperative anxiety and depression evaluation and a follow-up questionnaire 6 weeks after discharge.
Results: Thirty-two patients were included in the trial. The comprehension questionnaire resulted in a correct percentage response of 48% for the routine information only, 59% with added verbal information, 59% with added written information and 55% with added written and verbal information. Twenty-five per cent of patients stated that they had a poor understanding of the risks and complications of the procedure.
Conclusions: Additional written or verbal information did not improve a patient'understanding of risks and complications of the procedure. It also did not improve patients' perceived understanding of the operation or its complications. Patients' anxiety levels were unaltered by the increase in the information they were given. The information provided to patients should be simple, easy to understand and list any possible major complications to enable the patient to determine whether to undergo or decline a procedure.