Decision aids in the form of informational brochures help get patients talking about their anesthesia and pain relief options, according to a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2015 annual meeting. Shared decision making is critical to a more patient-centered process, as well as helping patients take an active role in their medical decisions.
“Surgery is serious and patients often are anxious about their anesthesia care plan,” said Karen Posner, Ph.D., Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle. “Often, patients have a poor understanding of anesthesia and desire more information about their options and post-operative pain management choices.”
In the study, 67 patients undergoing surgery with regional anesthesia were given brochures that explained the different types of anesthesia, risks and benefits, and included space for questions and notes. The decision aids were given to patients during a pre-anesthesia clinic evaluation a few days or weeks prior to surgery. Another 59 similar patients were not given decision aids. Immediately after the clinic evaluation, patients in both groups were surveyed to assess their knowledge of regional anesthesia and the risks and benefits, and to measure their level of anxiety and uncertainty.
Researchers found patients who received decision aids were more likely to discuss their anesthesia options during clinic visits. Sixty-four percent of patients who received brochures discussed regional anesthesia with clinic staff compared to 49 percent of those who did not get an aid. Patients who received a brochure were more likely to discuss their anesthesia choices (78 percent versus 52 percent). Additionally, 70 percent of patients who received brochures asked questions about regional anesthesia compared to only one third (32 percent) of the comparison group. Even though the brochures included risk information, that information did not increase anxiety and uncertainty in the group who received them.
“Clearly, more information is always helpful,” said Posner. “Helping patients understand their choices allows them to feel fully prepared to discuss their options and make a mutually agreed upon decision in partnership with their physician anesthesiologist.”