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Patients Not Always Clear on Heart Surgery Risks

Half couldn't recall details of informed consent but were happy with results

TUESDAY, April 1, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Half of the people who had coronary artery bypass surgery or angioplasty couldn't recall details of the informed consents that outline specific risks or benefits of the procedures.

That was the finding of a Duke University Medical Center study that was presented April 1 at the American College of Cardiology's annual scientific sessions in Chicago.

Despite being unable to remember the facts about the informed consent six weeks after having their procedures, more than 90 percent of the patients said they were satisfied with their knowledge of the procedures and their communication with their physician.

Researchers surveyed 679 people admitted to hospital complaining of chest pain. The surveys were done before any treatment decisions were made. In this group, 65 percent later had cardiac catheterization, 18 percent had angioplasty and 8 percent had coronary artery bypass surgery.

Six weeks after being discharged from hospital, the patients were surveyed again to assess their memories of discussions they had with their doctor about the risks and benefits of a particular procedure.

Of the people who had angioplasty, 42 percent could not identify any risks and 41 percent said they couldn't identify any benefits. Among the people who had coronary artery bypass surgery, 45 percent couldn't list any risks and 22 percent couldn't identify any benefits of the procedure.

When they were asked to quantify the risks of a procedure, 78 percent of the people who had angioplasty and 57 percent of those who had the surgery were unable to do so.

Overall, 93 percent of the people felt the decision about the procedure was theirs to make, 89 percent felt they were adequately informed, and 82 percent felt they understood the risks and benefits, the study found.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about informed consent.

SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center, news release, April 1, 2003
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