Objectives: Information provided at a mid-trimester fetal scan aims to improve patients' knowledge and minimize anxiety. This randomized controlled trial conducted at the Fetal Medicine Centre at Birmingham Women's Hospital aimed to assess the relative value of providing 1.standard information: a consultation and computer-generated ultrasound report (n = 29); 2.standard information plus a post scan written non-technical letter (n = 29); 3.standard information plus audiotapes of the consultation (n = 29); 4.standard information plus both non-technical letters and audiotapes (n = 30). It also aimed at exploring whether severity of diagnosis (none; mild; moderate-severe) interacted with the type of information provided to affect subsequent anxiety, depression and recall of information.
Participants: Women (n = 550) referred with suspected fetal anomalies (without a previous history of anomaly or known psychiatric illness) were sent information regarding this study. One hundred and seventeen women consented and were randomly assigned to one of four information groups. The groups were similar with regard to age, education and marital status.
Main outcome measures: State anxiety and depression were evaluated with the self-report State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) prior to consultation and two weeks post-scan. A structured telephone interview assessed recall of information approximately two weeks later.
Results: Two weeks after the initial consultation, women who received an audiotaped recording of the consultation reported significantly less anxiety than the control group (mean STAI 41.44 [95% CI 35.63-47.26] versus 44.92 [39.32-50.52]; difference = 10.70 [3.56-17.83], p < 0.01). Women who received a non-technical letter also reported less anxiety than the control group, an effect that approached significance (mean STAI 39.08 [95% CI 32.85-45.30]; difference = 6.48 [0.21-13.16], p = 0.058). There were no differences between the information groups on depression scores or recall of information. Women with a more severe abnormality reported higher anxiety and depression two weeks post-consultation, and had greater free recall but less cued recall of information.
Conclusions: Provision of additional material (particularly an audiotape) following a prenatal scan appears to minimise anxiety compared with standard practice. Provision of audiotapes and non-technical letters do not appear to affect patient recall.
Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.