J Med Ethics 34:780-782 doi:10.1136/jme.2008.024471
  • Clinical ethics

Is informed consent effective in trauma patients?

  1. A Bhangu,
  2. E Hood,
  3. A Datta,
  4. S Mangaleshkar
  1. Department of Trauma and Orthopaedics, Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, UK
  1. Dr A Bhangu, ST1 Trauma and Orthopaedics, 823 King Edwards Wharf, 25 Sheepcote Street, Birmingham B16 8AH, UK; aneelbhangu{at};
  • Received 19 January 2008
  • Revised 8 April 2008
  • Accepted 30 April 2008


Background: Informed consent in the modern era is a common and important topic both for the well-informed patient and to prevent unnecessary litigation. However, the effectiveness of informed consent in trauma patients is an under-researched area. This paper aims to assess the differences in patient recall of the consent process and desire for information by performing a comparative analysis between orthopaedic trauma and elective patients.

Methods: Information from 41 consecutive elective operations and 40 consecutive trauma operations was collected on the first post-operative day.

Results: 100% of elective patients and 90% of trauma patients knew what operation they had received (p = 0.06). Overall recall of complications was poor, but was significantly lower in trauma patients compared with elective patients (62% vs 22%, p<0.001). 30% of trauma patients desired more information about their operation compared to 12% of elective patients (p = 0.049), although only 35% of trauma patients wanted written as well as verbal explanations, compared to 85% of elective patients p<0.001). Overall 100% of elective and 90% of trauma patients were happy with the consent process (p = 0.06). Subset analysis of neck of femur compared to other trauma patients showed that the above factors were not significantly different between the two groups.

Conclusions: Recall of complications in the trauma patients is significantly lower than in elective patients, although both groups scored poorly overall. Repeated verbal explanations should be reinforced with the option of additional information leaflets for trauma operations. Further research into the usefulness of DVDs for commonly performed operations is warranted, although official internet resources may be more cost-effective.


  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Ethics approval: This audit was approved by the Audit head and registered with the Audit Department at Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, UK.