Patients and jargon: are we speaking the same language?

J Clin Anesth. 2008 Aug;20(5):343-346. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinane.2008.02.006.


Study objective: To assess the ability of surgical patients to understand words commonly used during the anesthetic preoperative visit.

Design: Questionnaire study.

Setting: Preanesthetic holding area of a university hospital.

Patients: 96 perioperative ASA physical status I, II, III, and IV outpatients and patients to be admitted.

Interventions: Patients were asked to complete a questionnaire that asked each to define 10 terms commonly used during the preoperative interview. Patients also answered three demographic questions as part of the survey.

Measurements: Understanding of 10 commonly used terms, first language, age, and highest education level were all recorded.

Main results: Of the 10 terms, 4 had a greater than 80% correct response rate: EKG, i.v., general anesthesia, and local or regional anesthesia, with correct response rates of 92.7%, 91.7%, 81.3%, and 81.3%, respectively. The terms with the poorest understanding were NPO (31.3%), MI (32.3%), and pulse ox (39.6%). The rest of the terms, with their correct response rates, were as follows: GERD (67.7%), hypertension (70.8%), and intubate (60.4%). Whereas higher education was associated with correct answer score, age was not.

Conclusions: Most patients understand the words EKG and i.v.. Further clarification might be needed when discussing general and regional anesthesia, and other words should be avoided or else explained.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures
  • Communication
  • Comprehension*
  • Educational Status
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • Vocabulary*
  • Young Adult