Nurses assess patients pre-operatively using screening questionnaires and locally-developed protocols. Our objectives were to determine which questions might identify patients who should be seen by an anaesthetist before the day of surgery. A review of the literature and a preliminary questionnaire to establish questions to be tested was followed by a modified, two-round Delphi questionnaire to determine the level of agreement by anaesthetists. There was agreement for referring patients who gave a positive response to questions that query: restricted exercise tolerance; previous anaesthetic problems; family history of anaesthetic problem; pathology affecting neck movement; angina; arrhythmia; heart failure; asthma; epilepsy; insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus; liver disease and unspecified kidney disease. There was equivocal agreement on questions that report a myocardial infarction over one year ago, cerebrovascular accident, non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and thyroid disease. Nurses should use these criteria during pre-operative assessment to decide the timing of evaluation by an anaesthetist.
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