What risks should we inform our patients about?
Orthodontic treatment is not without risk. We must inform our patients about as many risks as reasonable. But which ones are essential. This new paper lets us know.
When we discuss treatment with our patients, we need to inform them of all reasonable risks. There have been several important court rulings in the UK, USA and Australia that have recommended that we give our patients a reasonable amount of information on the risks of their treatment. In effect, we need to practise shared decision making.
However, we also need to consider that the evidence base for some of our risks is not high. This concept brings us to the idea of forming a reasonable professional community standard. This problem was the subject of this exciting new paper.
A team from Cardiff, Wales did this study. The American Journal of Orthodontics published the paper.
John Perry et al. AJO On-Line DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajodo.2019.11.017
What did they want to do?
They wanted to:
“Gain a professional consensus on the risks that should be discussed as part of consent for orthodontic treatment”.
What did they do?
They did a fascinating study using the Delphi technique. We also used this in a study that developed a Core Outcome Set for orthodontics. A Delphi is a method of gathering information about a subject by collecting the opinion of a group of people.
The authors did this study in several stages:
- Firstly they did a structured literature review to identify risks associated with orthodontic treatment. They identified papers from literature searches. Two of the authors then extracted the risks from the papers.
- They included the risks that they identified in the first round of a Delphi survey. They asked members of the British Orthodontic Society to take part in the online survey. In the first part, the respondents looked at the list of risks and scored their importance using a scale from 1 to 9. Score 1 was not important, and a score of 9 was completely critical. They then classified the risks against a predetermined definition of consensus. This enabled them to identify the risks that would go forward to the second round.
- They then analysed this data to provide information on the overall quartiles of the scores. This information was then included in the second round of the online Delphi along with a reminder of their score for each respondent. They asked the respondents to review their score and make any changes bearing in mind the scores of the complete panel. They then applied the definition of consensus again to identify the final selection of risks.
What did they find?
After the second round of the Delphi, they identified the following risks:
- Length of treatment
- Root resorption
- Consequences of doing nothing
- Appliances breaking
- Failure to achieve the desired tooth movements.
When they looked at their response rate, they sent out 1479 requests to participate. Three hundred forty-five members responded (23% response). Three hundred twenty-one responded to the second round (74% response).
What did I think?
This study was not the “usual” type of orthodontic research paper. As a result, I thought that it was interesting and very relevant to our clinical practice. The authors used the Delphi technique to obtain information from a large sample of orthodontists. This method is a significant strength of the paper. The authors also made the very relevant point that poorly trained operators and direct to consumer providers are likely to lack the necessary education to explain these risks.
They also felt that we could use this information to develop risk communication tools to help our patients come to informed decisions about their treatment choices.
One potential shortcoming of this study was the response rate. While some may feel that this is low. The authors pointed out that this was similar to the response rate for other Delphi techniques. As a result, it is acceptable. I also wondered if the list would be different for orthodontists outside of the UK. It certainly is possible to repeat this study in other countries.
In general, I thought that this was a fascinating and valuable contribution to the literature.
Emeritus Professor of Orthodontics, University of Manchester, UK.