Patients' Views of Shared Decision-making and Decisional Conflict in Otolaryngologic Surgery during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Nneoma S. Wamkpah, Sophie P. Gerndt, Dorina Kallogjeri, Jay F. Piccirillo, John J. Chi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Importance: A patient's decision to undergo surgery may be fraught with uncertainty and decisional conflict. The unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic warrants further study into factors associated with patient decision-making. Objective: To assess decisional conflict and patient-specific concerns for people undergoing otolaryngologic surgery during the pandemic. Design, Setting, Participants: This prospective cross-sectional survey study was conducted via telephone from April 22 to August 31, 2020. English-speaking adults scheduled for surgery from a single academic surgical center were invited to participate. Individuals who were non-English speaking, lacked autonomous medical decision-making capacity, scheduled for emergent surgery, or had a communication disability were excluded. For race and ethnicity reporting, participants were classified dichotomously as White according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or non-White as a collective term including Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or Pacific Islander race and ethnicity. Exposures: The SURE Questionnaire (sure of myself, understand information, risks/benefits ratio, and encouragement) was used to screen for decisional conflict, with a total score greater than or equal to 3 indicating clinically significant decisional conflict. Participants were asked to share their specific concerns about having surgery. Main Outcome and Measures: Decisional conflict and patient demographic data were assessed via bivariate analyses, multivariable logistic regression and conjunctive consolidation. Patient-specific concerns were qualitatively analyzed for summative themes. Results: Of 444 patients screened for eligibility, 182 (40.9%) respondents participated. The median age was 60.5 years (interquartile range, 48-70 years). The racial and ethnic identity of the participants was classified as binary White (84% [153 of 182]) and non-White (16% [29 of 182]). The overall prevalence of decisional conflict was 19% (34 of 182). Decisional conflict was more prevalent among non-White than White participants (proportion difference 18.8%, 95% CI, 0.6%-37.0% and adjusted odds ratio 3.0; 95% CI, 1.2-7.4). Combining information from multiple variables through conjunctive consolidation, the group with the highest rate of decisional conflict was non-White patients with no college education receiving urgent surgery (odds ratio, 10.8; 95% CI, 2.6-45.0). Intraoperative and postoperative concerns were the most common themes expressed by participants. There was a clinically significant difference in the proportion of participants who screened positive for decisional conflict (30%) and expressed postoperative concerns than those who screened negative for decisional conflict (17%) (proportion difference, 13%; 95% CI, 1%-25%). Among patients reporting concerns about COVID-19, most screened positive for decisional conflict. Conclusions and Relevance: Results of this cross-sectional survey study suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with decisional conflict in patients undergoing otolaryngologic surgery. Consistent discussion of risks and benefits is essential. The role of race and ethnicity in decisional conflict warrants further study..

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)879-886
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


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