How Informed is "Informed Consent" for Robotic Cardiothoracic Surgery?

Innovations (Phila). 2009 Nov;4(6):307-10. doi: 10.1097/IMI.0b013e3181c45e4f.


Objective: : The education of patients in the informed consent process remains a challenge for many surgeons. In cardiothoracic surgery, emerging minimally invasive techniques including robotics add another level of complexity to the patient education process. We sought to evaluate our patients' perceptions and informed knowledge after robotic-assisted cardiothoracic surgery.

Methods: : A survey containing questions designed to elicit patients' perceptions about robotic cardiothoracic surgery was given postoperatively by telephone 1 month to 12 months after surgery. The survey included questions about the type of procedure, function of the organ operated on, purpose of the operation, primary "surgeon" (robot vs. human), patients' opinion about robotic-assisted surgery, educational level, and socioeconomic background. Continuous variables are reported as mean ± SD. Continuous and categorical variables were compared using the Student t test and Pearson χ test, respectively. Ordinal variables were compared using the Mann-Whitney U test. P values of <0.05 were considered significant.

Results: : Between 2002 and 2007, 198 patients underwent robotic cardiothoracic surgery. One hundred fifty patients (76%) were contacted and 89 (45%) fully completed the survey. Of the respondents, there were 31 coronary artery bypasses, 33 pacemaker lead implantations, esophageal resections, 8 thymectomies, and 9 others. The mean age of the patients was 61.1 ± 15 years (range, 23-87) and there were 52 men (58.4%). A total of 96.6% of patients were satisfied with the information provided by the surgeon and 92.1% felt that they understood the information. The diagnosis, target organ, and procedure were correctly identified by 81 (91.0%), 83 (93.3%), and 76 (85.4%) of the patients, respectively. A total of 80 (89.9%) knew a robot was involved and 73.8% understood the role of the robot in the surgery. These results were independent of age, income, and education level achieved.

Conclusions: : Overall, patients demonstrated an understanding of the role of the robot in their cardiothoracic surgery. Despite the increasing complexity of robotics, preoperative patient education can result in patients who are both satisfied and well educated about their cardiothoracic surgery procedures.