Informed consent: patients listen and read, but what information do they retain?

N Z Med J. 2002 Oct 25;115(1164):U218.


Aim: To determine the percentage of knowledge retained immediately following an outpatient consultation for total hip and knee joint arthroplasty, and whether any improvement in that knowledge occurred after reading an information leaflet about the operation.

Methods: Patients on the waiting list for joint replacement surgery were given verbal information during the consultation about basic operative details, post-operative programme, and potential complications. A questionnaire was completed asking them to recall these details. They were then given information leaflets to read. Six weeks later, they were contacted again and asked the same questions.

Results: Immediately following a consultation, patients recall only a small percentage of information. In particular, retention of post-operative recovery time frames, and possible operative complications is poor. Despite an information booklet, patients' level of knowledge deteriorates from the initial consultation.

Conclusions: Verbal and written information supplied to a patient may be understood, but it is easily and quickly forgotten. In an increasingly medicolegal environment, it is essential to gain informed consent from a patient when performing interventions. The provision of an information booklet may provide nothing more than proof for the surgeon of information provision to the patient.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee
  • Comprehension
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pamphlets*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires