Background: In contemporary clinical practice, the ability for orthopaedic surgeons to obtain true 'informed consent' is becoming increasingly difficult. This problem has been driven by factors including increased expectations of surgical outcome by patients and increasing complexity of surgical procedures. Surgical pamphlets and computer presentations have been advocated as ways of improving patient education, but evidence of their efficacy is limited. The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy of a computer-based multimedia (MM) presentation against standardized verbal consent and information pamphlets for patients considering knee arthroscopy surgery. Methods: A randomized, controlled prospective trial was conducted, comparing the efficacy of three methods of providing preoperative informed consent information to patients. Sixty-one patients were randomly allocated into MM, verbal consent or pamphlet groups 3-6 weeks prior to knee arthroscopy surgery. Information recall after the initial consent process was assessed by questionnaire. Retention of this information was again assessed by questionnaire at the time of surgery and 6 weeks after surgery. Results: The MM group demonstrated a significantly greater proportion of correct responses, 98%, in the questionnaire at the time of consent, in comparison with 88% for verbal and 76% for pamphlet groups, with no difference in anxiety levels. Information was also better retained by the MM group up to 6 weeks after surgery. Patient satisfaction with information delivery was higher in the MM group. Conclusion: MM is an effective tool for aiding in the provision and retention of information during the informed consent process.