Critical appraisal on the impact of preoperative rehabilitation and outcomes after major abdominal and cardiothoracic surgery: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Published:September 20, 2019DOI:



      There has been increasing interest in the prehabilitation of patients undergoing major abdominal surgery to improve perioperative outcomes. This systematic review and meta-analysis aims to evaluate and compare the current literature on prehabilitation in major abdominal surgery and cardiothoracic surgery


      A systematic literature search was conducted for studies reporting prehabilitation in patients undergoing major abdominal and cardiothoracic surgery. Meta-analysis of postoperative outcomes (overall and major complications, pulmonary and cardiac complications, postoperative pneumonia, and length of hospital stay) was performed using random effects models.


      Five thousand nine hundred and twenty-one patients underwent prehabilitation in 61 studies, of which 35 studies (n = 3,402) were in major abdominal surgery and 26 studies were in cardiothoracic surgery (n = 2,519). Only 45 studies compared the impact of prehabilitation versus no prehabilitation on postoperative outcomes (abdominal, n = 26; cardiothoracic, n = 19). Quality of evidence for prehabilitation in major abdominal and cardiothoracic surgery appear equivalent. Patients receiving prehabilitation for major abdominal surgery have significantly lower rates of overall (n = 10, odds ratio: 0.61, confidence interval 95%: 0.43–0.86, P = .005), pulmonary (n = 15, odds ratio: 0.41, confidence interval 95%: 0.25–0.67, P < .001), and cardiac complications (n = 4, odds ratio: 0.46, confidence interval 95%: 0.22–0.96, P = .044). Sensitivity analysis including randomized controlled trials only did not alter the findings of this study.


      Prehabilitation has the potential to improve surgical outcomes in patients undergoing major abdominal and cardiothoracic surgery. However, current evidence from randomized studies remains weak owing to variation in prehabilitation regimes, limiting the assessment of current postoperative outcomes.
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