Consent and complications: risk disclosure varies widely between individual surgeons

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2003 Mar;85(2):79-82. doi: 10.1308/003588403321219812.


Aims: To assess variations in consent practice for a single operative procedure, namely laparoscopic cholecystectomy, particularly with respect to the frequency with which potential complications are discussed with patients.

Methods: Postal questionnaire sent to general surgeons in the West Midlands and to UK members of the Association of Endoscopic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland. Respondents were asked to estimate how often they discussed particular complications with their patients pre-operatively.

Results: Conversion to open cholecystectomy was the most frequently discussed complication. Other complications were much less likely to be mentioned overall and there was disturbing variation between individual surgeons in the frequency with which certain complications were discussed, particularly the risk of bile duct injury.

Conclusions: In order for consent to be informed, patients need to be aware of significant risks. Our results indicate a lack of consensus from surgeons as to which risks are significant for this operation and this is likely to be true for other procedures.

MeSH terms

  • Cholecystectomy, Laparoscopic / adverse effects*
  • Cholecystectomy, Laparoscopic / psychology
  • England
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Postoperative Complications / psychology*
  • Professional Practice
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Truth Disclosure*