Patients' understanding of their medical problems is essential to allow them to make competent decisions, comply with treatment and enable recovery. We investigated Patients' understanding of orthopaedic terms to identify those words surgeons should make the most effort to explain.
This questionnaire-based study recruited patients attending the orthopaedic clinics. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected using free text boxes for the Patients' written definitions and multiple choice questions (MCQs).
A total of 133 patients took part. Of these, 74% identified English as their first language. ‘Broken bone’ was correctly defined by 71% of respondents whereas ‘fractured bone’ was only correctly defined by 33%. ‘Sprain’ was correctly defined by 17% of respondents, with 29% being almost correct, 25% wrong and 29% unsure. In the MCQs, 51% of respondents answered correctly for ‘fracture’, 55% for ‘arthroscopy’, 46% for ‘meniscus’, 35% for ‘tendon’ and 23% for ‘ligament’. ‘Sprained’ caused confusion, with only 11% of patients answering correctly. Speaking English as a second language was a significant predictive factor for patients who had difficulty with definitions. There was no significant variation among different age groups.
Care should be taken by surgeons when using basic and common orthopaedic terminology in order to avoid misunderstanding. Educating patients in clinic is a routine part of practice.