Older patients don’t tell surgeons all their concerns

August 1st, 2008 - 12:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 1 (IANS) Older patients and their surgeons don’t communicate properly when exploring surgical options, compounding their condition, according to a study. The researchers taped patient-surgeon consultations and later interviewed the patients to find out what, if anything, they had not discussed with their surgeons.

They found that the older adults had raised only about half of the concerns mentioned in the subsequent interview.

“Unexpressed concerns are challenging because they can lead to different expectations and understanding of the problems patients are concerned about,” said Richard M. Frankel, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Frankel and colleagues noted that if concerns are unexpressed, “physicians will have little chance to correct or modify them. Unfortunately unexpressed concerns may contribute to breakdowns in communication which are frustrating for both physicians and patients.”

The overwhelming majority (84 percent) of older adult concerns related to the surgery itself. Concerns about anticipated quality of life after surgery, the post-surgery care facility and timing of surgery were among those most frequently voiced by older adults.

A mere 16 percent of older patient concerns were related to the surgeons including doubts about competency of the surgeon and the perceived tendency of surgeons to promote surgery as the only real treatment option.

The researchers found that surgeons generally do a good job of responding to patient concerns when they are raised. However they found that patients appear highly selective about what concerns they mention.

These findings have been published in the July issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

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