Intended for healthcare professionals


Patients unaware of anaesthetic risks

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 08 January 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:134
  1. M Mead,
  2. J White
  1. Department of Anaesthesia, Northampton General Hospital, Northampton NN1 5BD.

    EDITOR, - Pieter E Treffers and Maria Pel discuss the worrying trend of an increasing rate of caesarean section in childbirth.1 The caesarean section rate in Britain has risen recently to over 13%2 and in other countries such as the United States can be as high as 24.7%.3 Many reasons are given for this increase, one of the main ones being the fear of litigation, although the fact that caesarean sections are now safer is also given as justification.2 Treffers and Pel did not mention anaesthesia in their editorial.

    In a recent audit we learnt how little patients knew about caesarean section and its possible risks.4 In particular, most patients had no awareness of the anaesthetic procedures entailed or their potential hazards. Women still die as a direct result of anaesthesia for surgical delivery of their child, and as the rate of operative delivery increases this mortality will probably also increase. Thus we have now introduced an informative leaflet to be provided to mothers in our antenatal clinic so that they are at least aware of the possible risks (and benefits) of any anaesthetic procedure they may require. If patients are aware of the dangers they may not be so quick to choose caesarean section over vaginal delivery and some of the pressure on the obstetricians will be reduced.


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