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imageIntroduction: Truly informed consent is an elusive goal, seldom attained in medical or surgical practice. Patients often do not fully understand procedures and therapies they undergo or the associated sequelae. Historically, informed consent and patient education have been limited to physician discussions, sometimes with the addition of simple visual aids. More recently, there is a growing body of decision aids available, including interactive multimedia patient educational modules that review preoperative through postoperative care, risks, benefits, alternatives, different surgical options, as well as commonly asked questions. We hypothesized that the addition of a Web-based educational tool would positively impact attainment of informed consent and satisfaction in plastic surgery patients.
Methods: We performed a prospective randomized controlled study comparing patients who presented in consultation for breast reconstruction, breast reduction, and abdominoplasty. Patients received standard patient education along with a procedure-specific (study) or general patient safety (control) Web-based educational module. Informed consent was measured using a surgical-focused, modified version of the Shared Decision-making 25 index tool. Patient demographic information as well as surrogate markers of familiarity with technology were recorded preoperatively and postoperatively. Comparisons were made between study and control groups, procedure subgroups, and preoperative and postoperative time points. Demographic factors and consent variables were compared among experimental and procedure groups.
Results: Data were collected from 65 patients preoperatively and 48 patients postoperatively. Thirty patients competed both surveys. Overall, no differences in patient characteristics or familiarity with technology were observed between experimental groups. Demographic characteristics were also similar between groups. No meaningful differences were identified in comparisons between experimental groups on either cross-sectional or longitudinal analyses. Nearly all patient responses were consistent with being well informed and satisfied with the educational process.
Conclusions: Overall, patients undergoing plastic surgery procedures are adequately informed and have a high degree of satisfaction regarding their patient education. The addition of a Web-based informed consent tool did not make a demonstrable difference in informed consent.

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