Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background: Little is known about the opportunities for shared decision-making when older high-risk patients are offered major surgery. This study examines how, when, and why clinicians and patients can share decision-making about major surgery. Methods: This was a multi-method qualitative study, combining video recordings of preoperative consultations, interviews, and focus groups (33 patients, 19 relatives, 36 clinicians), with observations and documentary analysis in clinics in five hospitals in the UK undertaking major orthopaedic, colorectal, and/or cardiac surgery. Results: Three opportunities for shared decision-making about major surgery were identified. Resolution-focused consultations (cardiac/colorectal) resulted in a single agreed preferred option related to a potentially life-threatening problem, with limited opportunities for shared decision-making. Evaluative and deliberative consultations offered more opportunity. The former focused on assessing the likelihood of benefits of surgery for a presenting problem that was not a threat to life for the patient (e.g., orthopaedic consultations) and the latter (largely colorectal) involved discussion of a range of options while also considering significant comorbidities and patient preferences. The extent to which opportunities for shared decision-making were available, and taken up by surgeons, was influenced by the nature of the presenting problem, clinical pathway, and patient trajectory. Conclusions: Decisions about major surgery were not always shared between patients and doctors. The nature of the presenting problem, comorbidities, clinical pathways, and patient trajectories all informed the type of consultation and opportunities for sharing decision-making. Our findings have implications for clinicians, with shared decision-making about major surgery most feasible when the focus is on life-enhancing treatment.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Anaesthesia

Publication Date