Not always looking on the bright side of lifeBMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7491.584 (Published 10 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:584
- Ruth James, research fellow in vascular surgery (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Nuffield Department of Surgery, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford
One of my first tasks as a new senior house officer in vascular surgery was to get a patient's consent for elective abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. He was a slim, active, very anxious 73 year old with a 5.6 cm asymptomatic aneurysm. He was intensely interested in the mechanics of the operation. I drew many diagrams and explained in detail the risks of surgery.
I told him there was a 5% risk of death, pausing to emphasise the gravity of the situation, and then solemnly described in painstaking detail the risks of embolisation—limb loss, paraplegia, bowel ischaemia, …