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Patients value information about benefits and risks before cataract removal

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Patients due for cataract removal would appreciate written information about the expected benefits and possible complications, a small survey has found. Surgeons could then concentrate on discussing specific risks with individual patients.

More than 90 per cent of 190 consecutive patients attending the ophthalmological department of a New Zealand hospital before their operation responded to each of 13 questions in the survey, covering benefits and risks, rating their importance on a Likert scale. Such a good response suggests that information covered by all these questions needs to be made available in future.

For two thirds of the patients this was their first cataract operation, as their responses reflected, with top requests for information on the chance of visual improvement with treatment and when this might be expected, followed by risks of impaired vision, outcome of not having the operation, and risks of serious complications, however rare.

In women, comprising about 60% of respondents, anaesthetic risk and risk of overall decrease in vision seemed significantly more important than in men. Patients having their second operation were less concerned with risks. Almost all respondents were in favour of information given orally and 86% favoured written information.

Patients’ wishes for information before surgery has been ascertained for general and ear, nose, and throat surgery but not, apparently, for eye surgery.

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