Objective: To compare recall of complications and surgical details discussed during informed consent and perception of the consent process in patients undergoing emergent vs elective surgery. Methods: Studies were identified from PubMed, Cochrane, Web of Science, and Scopus from January 1, 1966, through April 18, 2018. Included studies compared patient recall and perception regarding informed consent in those undergoing emergent vs elective surgery. Pooled odds ratios (ORs) were calculated for recall of complications and surgical details, patient satisfaction, perception of sufficient information being delivered on surgical risks, report of having read written consent, and factors that interfered with consent. Results: Eleven observational studies (3178 patients) were included. The rate of recall of surgical complications (255 of 504 [50.6%] vs 321 of 446 [72.0%]; OR, 0.29; 95% CI, 0.11-0.80) was lower in patients undergoing emergent vs elective surgery. Meta-analysis revealed a decreased rate of patient satisfaction with the consent process (319 of 459 [69.5%] vs 882 of 1064 [82.9%]; OR. 0.53; 95% CI, 0.34-0.83) and fewer patients having read the consent form (130 of 395 [32.9%] vs 424 of 714 [59.4%]; OR, 0.35; 95% CI, 0.27-0.46) when undergoing emergent compared with elective surgery. Patients undergoing emergent surgery listed pain, analgesic medications, and fatigue as factors likely to interfere with consent. Conclusion: Patients undergoing emergent surgery have poor recall of the informed consent process and surgical complications. Furthermore, patients report lower rates of satisfaction, and with fewer patients reading written consent documentation, our findings illuminate problems with the current communication process. There is a need to develop effective tools to improve informed consent in emergency surgery.
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