What are parents willing to accept? A prospective study of risk tolerance in AIS surgery

Spine Deform. 2021 Mar;9(2):381-386. doi: 10.1007/s43390-020-00216-z. Epub 2020 Oct 13.


Introduction: Surgical treatment of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) involves healthy individuals with spinal deformity. Parents are responsible for surgical consent on behalf of their children, a burden which causes trepidation and concern. Therefore, explanation of operative risk is a critical component of informed consent and parent decision-making. We set out to quantify parental risk aversion (RA).

Methods: RA questionnaires were administered preoperatively to parents of 58 AIS patients undergoing spinal fusion (SF). RA is the likelihood of a parent to consent to their child's SF (1- least likely, 10- most) with increasing allotments of data about potential complications at each stage (S1-complication named, S2-explained, S3-incidence given, S4-all information). A statistically significant mean difference in answers for each stage was assessed using paired sample t test or Wilcoxon rank t test. Normality was assessed by performing Shapiro-Wilk test.

Results: AIS patients (age 14.2 years, 85% female, major curve 61°) were included. Mean scores for each of the stages were 4.4 ± 3.1, 4.9 ± 3.1, 6.5 ± 3.0, 6.6 ± 3.0, respectively. Highest and lowest RA were reported for death and infection, respectively. The greatest increase in likelihood to proceed with surgery was seen after education on malposition of implants and on death, 2.6 and 2.5, respectively (p < 0.001). The lowest increase in likelihood to proceed with surgery was seen after education on infection, 1.5 (p < 0.001). For all complications, there was an increase in parent willingness to proceed after providing descriptions and occurrence rate with a mean increase from S1 to S4 of 2.1 (95% CI 1.4-2.4), p < 0.001.

Conclusion: As more detailed information was made available regarding potential complications with SF for AIS, parental RA toward surgery decreased and their willingness to proceed with surgery for their child improved.

Keywords: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis; Risk aversion; Spinal fusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kyphosis*
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Prospective Studies
  • Scoliosis* / surgery
  • Spinal Fusion* / adverse effects