Patients’ knowledge about the outcomes of thyroid biopsy: a patient survey
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PURPOSE: Fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid is an increasingly common outpatient procedure. Patients are counseled about the indications and risks of this procedure and informed consent is obtained. We aimed to assess the extent to which patients acquired necessary knowledge during this process. METHODS: Survey study conducted in a thyroid nodule clinic at a referral center. Adult patients who had just undergone a thyroid biopsy were asked to complete a survey, including eight questions regarding the indications and potential outcomes of thyroid biopsy. The main outcome of the study was to assess the patients' knowledge based on the response to each individual survey question. RESULTS: Two-hundred and ninety-seven patients were eligible, of which 196 (66%) completed the survey: most were women (76%), had adequate reading health literacy (95%) and a mean age of 58 years. Although 86% of patients correctly identified evaluation for thyroid cancer as the main indication for their biopsy, 56% were not aware of the likelihood of this diagnosis. Almost all (>90%) of respondents knew that results could be benign or malignant; fewer were aware of non-diagnostic (71%) or indeterminate (68%) outcomes, or of the need for additional diagnostic testing after the biopsy (33%). CONCLUSIONS: After undergoing thyroid biopsy, a high proportion of well-educated patients remained unaware of their risk for thyroid cancer, potential outcomes, and downstream consequences of their biopsy. This quality gap raises the possibility that informed consent procedures that meet legal standards may leave patients undergoing thyroid biopsy paradoxically uninformed.
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