Article Abstract

Perioperative goal-setting consultations by surgical colleagues: a new model for supporting patients, families, and surgeons in shared decision making

Authors: Ana Berlin, Anastasia Kunac, Anne C. Mosenthal


Patients with postoperative complications are often subjected to prolonged life-sustaining treatment based on erroneous assumptions about their goals of care. Shared decision making (SDM) is an evidence-based approach that helps ensure patients’ wishes and values are honored in their course of treatment. Perioperative palliative care can help create goal-concordant trajectories of care for high risk, seriously ill, or complicated patients, through sophisticated prognostication, higher-level communication, and recommendations based on the best available evidence and patients’ stated goals and priorities. Here, we present a surgeon-to-surgeon consultative model that surmounts many barriers to perioperative palliative care consultation and, as illustrated in the cases presented herein, offers profound and unique benefits for patients, families, and surgeons alike. While the support of a surgical colleague with palliative care skills can be helpful postoperatively in the setting of unanticipated outcomes or prolonged recovery, it is particularly beneficial when accessed preoperatively for the purposes of goal-concordant decision making and advance care planning. We encourage both individuals and professional societies to develop and expand the niche for surgeons interested in assisting with goal setting and SDM for patients on a consultative basis, particularly in the preoperative period.