Physical exercise prehabilitation has been proposed to improve postoperative outcomes in patients undergoing major abdominal surgery. The aim of this systematic review was to investigate the effect of preoperative exercise training compared with standard care on postoperative outcomes in major abdominal surgery.
Randomized controlled trials (RCT) comparing prehabilitation with standard care were identified by a systematic literature search of MEDLINE and CENTRAL. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of perioperative outcome data were conducted. Meta-analyses were performed wherever possible and meaningful.
A total of eight trials including 442 patients met the inclusion criteria. These trials investigated the effect of prehabilitation in patient cohorts undergoing major liver, colorectal, gastroesophageal, and general abdominal surgery. Quantitative analyses of all included trials showed a significant reduction in postoperative pulmonary complications (OR 0.37; 0.20 to 0.67; p = 0.001) as well as in postoperative overall morbidity (OR 0.52; 0.30 to 0.88; p = 0.01) in the prehabilitation group compared with standard care. The length of hospital stay showed no significant differences between the groups (MD - 0.58; - 1.28 to 0.13; p = 0.11). Risk of bias and methodological quality varied substantially among the trials, most of which were small single-center studies.
Prehabilitation including a physical exercise intervention may lead to a reduction of postoperative pulmonary complications as well as less overall morbidity compared with standard care in patients undergoing major abdominal surgery. Further, well-designed RCT are needed to evaluate these potential positive effects in more detail and to identify suitable target populations.
PROSPERO 2017 CRD42017080366.