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Patients often become unduly concerned with certain risks including death without any true understanding of how rare the risk may be. Unfortunately, such rare risks may be THE reason why a patient may refuse a needed procedure in the erroneous belief that something rare has an unacceptably high chance of occurring to them.
In such situations, it may be beneficial to compare the chance of a rare risk with more common scenarios that a patient may be more familiar with.
The risk of death is... (In bold are surgical procedures)
|Death from major surgery if performed within 30 days after a heart attack||1 in 7|
|Death from high risk open-heart surgery||1 in 20|
|Dying on the road over 50 years of driving||1 in 85|
|Dying from any cause in the next year||1 in 100|
|Annual risk of death from smoking 10 cigarettes per day||1 in 200|
|Death from UPPP surgery||1 in 500|
|ER treatment in the next year after being injured by a can, bottle, or jar||1 in 1,000|
|ER treatment in the next year after being injured by a bed mattress or pillow||1 in 2,000|
|Death by an accident at home||1 in 7,100|
|Death from tonsillectomy||1 in 10,000 - 35,000|
|Death by an accident at work||1 in 40,000|
|Death playing soccer||1 in 50,000|
|Death by murder||1 in 100,000|
|Being hit in your home by a crashing aeroplane||1 in 250,000|
|Death by rail accident||1 in 500,000|
|Being struck by lightning||1 in 10,000,000|
|Death from a nuclear power accident||1 in 10,000,000|
Risk perception and communication: recent developments and implications for anaesthesia. Anaesthesia 2001;56:745-55.
Risk language and dialects. BMJ 1997;315:939-42.
Safety of Adult Tonsillectomy: A Population-Level Analysis of 5968 Patients. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 Jan 30. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2013.6215.