I sat in the surgeon's office with Mother and listened to all the possible choices for treating her wrist fracture. In the end, we left it up to the surgeon to decide. It was just too much information and too overwhelming. Why do they tell us all these things? Why don't they just decide what needs to be done and do it?
Many people today want to make their own decisions about health care events. This is especially true with the Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964). The first of these folks are hitting the 65 year old mark and entering the "senior" status. This group is characterized by a strong consumer rights and activist approach to social, political, and even personal affairs.
Physicians (and other health care providers) are being encouraged to see patients as consumers. Given the right education, they want to make informed decisions for themselves. Sometimes that approach is just right.
For example, in the case of a broken wrist, there is no one best way to treat the problem of an unstable wrist fracture. Straightening the bones out and applying a cast may not look as perfect and pretty as doing open surgery but it reduces the risk of complications that older adults might face with surgery.
And there are quality of life issues to consider. Quality of life includes activity level and ability to complete daily tasks around the house or at work. Wrist pain, loss of wrist/hand motion, decreased strength, and impaired function can really put a damper on quality of life. Function (using that hand) may be more compromised with one type of surgery versus another. For a piano teacher that choice may be very important.
For your mother and her situation, letting the surgeon make the best choice was the right thing to do. When information overload muddies the waters, it's best not to step in and wade around! But for others, more information is needed for them to weigh the risks against the benefits and make a choice that best suits their own personal needs.
Rafael J. Diaz-Garcia, MD, et al. A Systematic Review of Outcomes and Complications of Treating Unstable Distal Radius Fractures in the Elderly. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. May 2011. Vol. 36A. No. 5. Pp. 824-835.
*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.