Objective: This study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of informed consent in head and neck surgery by testing patient recall of potential complications from thyroidectomy, parathyroidectomy, and parotidectomy.
Design: A prospective design was used.
Setting: The setting was an academic tertiary care centre.
Methods: Fifty-four patients undergoing thyroidectomy, parathyroidectomy, or parotidectomy were consented by verbal contact by the operating surgeon with a specific preoperative checklist of complication and side effects. One week to 2 months after consent, the patients were surveyed for recall of potential complications.
Main outcome measures: Rate of recall was related to various parameters including patient age, sex, level of education, occupation, and length of time from the consent interview to the recall interview.
Results: The overall recall rate for all procedures was 48%. Those patients who recalled over 50% of the complications were younger (p = .04) and better educated (p = .04). The gender of the patients did not appear to influence recall success (p = 1.00), even when facial scar or paralysis was considered.
Conclusion: A significant relationship exists between education level and patient age and the rate of patient recall of potential complications of surgery.