Shared decision-making in peri-operative medicine: a narrative review

Anaesthesia. 2019 Jan;74 Suppl 1:13-19. doi: 10.1111/anae.14504.


This review on shared decision-making comes at a time when international healthcare policy, domestic law and patient expectation demand a bringing-together of the patient's values and preferences with the physician's expertise to determine the best bespoke care package for the individual. Despite robust guidance in terms of consent, the anaesthetic community have lagged behind in terms of embracing the patient-focused rather than doctor-focused aspects of shared decision-making. For many, confusion has arisen due to a conflation of informed consent, risk assessment, decision aids and shared decision-making. Although they may well be linked, they are discrete entities. The obstacles to delivering shared decision-making are many. Lack of time is the most widely cited barrier from the perspective of physicians across specialties, with little time available to the anaesthetist at the day-of-surgery pre-operative visit. A more natural place to start the process may be the pre-operative assessment clinic, especially for the 'high-risk' patient. Yet shared decision-making is for all, even the 'low-risk' patient. Another barrier is the flow and the focus of the typical anaesthetic consultation; the truncated format presents the danger of a cursory, 'time-efficient' and mechanical process as the anaesthetist assesses risk and determines the safest anaesthetic. As patients have already decided to proceed with therapy or investigation and may be more concerned about the surgery than the anaesthesia, it is often assumed they will accept whatever anaesthetic is offered and defer to the clinician's expertise - without discussion. Furthermore, shared decision-making does not stop at time of anaesthesia for the peri-operative physician. It continues until discharge and requires the anaesthetist to engage in shared decision-making for prescribing and deprescribing peri-operative medicines.

Keywords: decision support; decision-making; patient participation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Patient Participation*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*