Patients still have many misperceptions about life-saving heart procedures, said researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Stony Brook School of Medicine in a new study published online today in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery

“Patients who undergo heart procedures often have a poor understanding of their disease and of related therapeutic risks, benefits and alternatives,” said Dr. Todd Rosengart, senior author of the study and professor and the DeBakey Bard Chair of Surgery in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor.

In this study, Rosengart and colleagues sought to compare the effectiveness of two pre-procedural educational approaches to enhance patients’ knowledge of standard consent elements.

Specifically, they studied patients who underwent first-time, elective outpatient cardiac catheterization (a procedure used to diagnose and treat some heart conditions) and possible percutaneous coronary intervention (non-surgical procedure used to treat the narrowed coronary arteries of the heart found in coronary heart disease). 

They split the participants into two groups who received education by either scripted verbal or written consent process or a web-based, audiovisual presentation. Pre-consent and post-consent questionnaires were administered to evaluate changes in patients’ comprehension of standard consent elements such as risks, benefits and alternative treatment.

A total of 102 patients were included in the study. Both groups showed changes in comprehension rates for risk and benefit consent elements.

The group that received the web-based, audio-visual presentation showed greater improvement in the identification of treatment alternatives than the scripted group.

Correct identification of all risks and alternatives increased significantly after consent.

However, misperceptions of benefits persisted after consent, including confusion on survival benefits and prevention of future serious heart events.

“Although we showed improved patient comprehension with both groups, important misconceptions regarding outcomes and alternatives persist,” said Rosengart. “Considerable challenges still exist in educating patients about contemplated medical procedures.”

Rosengart said future research is needed to improve patient comprehension.

Other Baylor authors include Shubha Dathatri and Jatin Anand. Authors from Stony Brook School of Medicine include Luis Gruberg; Jamie Romeiser; Shephali Sharma; Eileen Finnin and Laurie W. Shroyer.

Support for this study came from internal funds at Baylor. Access to web product was provided free of charge by Emmi Solutions, Inc.

The study will publish in the May issue of the printed journal.