Survey of consent practices for inpatient colonoscopy and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography at a tertiary referral center

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The purpose of the present paper was to determine informed consent practices for inpatient, open-access colonoscopy and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) at a tertiary referral center.


A two-part prospective study incorporating (i) an audit of consent practices for colonoscopy and ERCP; and (ii) a questionnaire directed at gastroenterologists and interns regarding information imparted to patients in the process of acquiring informed consent, was undertaken at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Western Australia. Study subjects consisted of inpatients undergoing open-access colonoscopy and/or ERCP at the study center commencing May 2003; and gastroenterologists and interns at the study center.


Written consent was obtained by junior medical staff in 89% of cases. Response rates for the questionnaire was 100% from interns, and 91% from gastroenterologists. Of interns surveyed, 93% had witnessed a colonoscopy, and 59% had witnessed an ERCP. For 12% of interns, colonoscopic bleeding or perforation were not always mentioned. Colonoscopy failure rate and perforation were overestimated by 51% and 63% of interns, respectively. Only 56% of interns always mentioned pancreatitis as a complication of ERCP. The rate of post-ERCP pancreatitis was overestimated by 25% of interns. Only 40% of gastroenterologists always provided additional information to patients whose consent was obtained by someone else. Written material was not routinely provided for patients. Consent was usually obtained on the day of the procedure.


Written consent for inpatients undergoing open-access colonoscopy and ERCP is rarely obtained by the proceduralist. There is substantial variability in the information provided to patients. Guidelines are required to ensure best practice in this area.

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