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Heart Surgery Study Raises Concern About Informed Consent

A new study suggests that doctors may not be fully explaining the risks associated with a common heart procedure. As San Diego medical negligence lawyers, the findings raise concerns about whether patients are providing informed consent.

As we have previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, informed consent is the process of communication between a patient and physician that results in the patient’s authorization to undergo a specific medical procedure. The fundamental requirement is that the patient must be provided enough information to be fully informed prior to agreeing to a particular medical treatment. This generally includes being advised of the risks and benefits of the procedure as well as alternative courses of action.

The study examined 59 conversations between cardiologists and patients about percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). During the relatively common heart procedure, surgeons use a tiny balloon to clear an artery blockage and place a stent to keep the blood flowing freely. As reported by Reuters, PCI can be effective in treating chest pain and reducing the risk of heart attacks. However, it also has significant risks, such as infections, blood vessel damage, or other complications that may require open-heart surgery.

“When you are facing a decision that has a number of consequences one way or the other, there are a number of issues that you are supposed to address and we found, overall, that very few conversations had all the elements,” said Dr. Michael Rothberg, of the Center for Value Based Care Research at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Overall, the researchers concluded that just 2 of the 59 conversations provided sufficient information for the patient to make an informed decision. Cardiologists discussed alternative treatments in just 25 percent of the cases. They also rarely confirmed whether patients understood the information or explained the advantages and disadvantages of different stents that might be used during the procedure.

As a result of the flawed informed consent process, many patients falsely believed that the main benefit of the PCI procedure was to prevent a heart attack or death rather than decrease chest pain.

If you or someone you love has suffered from medical negligence, don’t hesitate to contacta San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.