Introduction: Within the UK there are 50,000 practitioners of complementary medicine. Five million people have consulted such practitioners in one year. The aim of this study was to explore the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in patients attending general, vascular and cardiothoracic units at a regional Scottish centre.
Patients and methods: A questionnaire was administered to 450 patients attending the units over an 8-week period. The questionnaire consisted of demographic sections, a listing of 48 herbal preparations and alternative therapies, reasons for use and opinions on efficacy.
Results: A total of 430 patients completed questionnaires (95%); age and sex were equally distributed over the sample. Of respondents, 68% (291 patients) had ever used CAM; 46% had used CAM in the preceding year. Half had used herbal preparations only, 13% non-herbal treatments and 35% both types of therapy. Only 10% were using CAM for the condition that led to their hospital admission. Two-thirds failed to inform their family physician about their use of CAM.
Conclusions: Despite concerns regarding the efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness of complementary medicine, use amongst surgical patients is common.