Attitudes of Parents and Health Care Workers to Major Surgery for High-Risk Preterm Infants

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Abstract

Objectives

To assess preferences of health care workers (HCWs) and parents of term and preterm infants to adverse health outcomes, and how perceived surgical mortality influences decision-making.

Study design

A total of 536 participants (157 HCWs, 201 parents of term infants, and 178 parents of preterm infants) were recruited to take part in a structured interview. Preferences related to treatment of a critically ill preterm infant with necrotizing enterocolitis were measured by health state rank permutation analysis and pivotal risk analysis. Between-group and subgroup comparisons were performed.

Results

HCWs rank adverse health states less favorably than parents of preterm infants, consistently ranking 2 of the most adverse health states worse than death. Pivotal risk values of HCWs for all health states were consistently the lowest of the 3 groups. High operative mortality was associated uniformly with reduction in pivotal risks for all groups both in favorable and adverse health states. Subgroup analyses revealed significant discrepancies in preferences between fathers and mothers as well as doctors and nurses. Regular religious practice was significantly associated with increased pivotal risks in parental subgroups.

Conclusions

As discrepancies in health state preferences existed between subgroups (ie, doctors vs nurses, mothers vs fathers) and perceived operative mortality consistently biased parental and HCW health state preferences, we recommend that HCWs should first identify differences regarding patient management before interviewing the parents together. HCWs should be aware of inadvertently biasing parents when discussing the risks and outcomes of surgery in conjunction with the overall long-term prognosis of the underlying condition.

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