Evaluation of an early exercise intervention after thoracotomy for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), effects on quality of life, muscle strength and exercise tolerance: randomised controlled trial

Lung Cancer. 2011 Feb;71(2):229-34. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2010.04.025. Epub 2010 Jun 11.


Deterioration in exercise tolerance and impairment in quality of life (QoL) are common consequences of lobectomy. This study evaluates additional exercise and strength training after lung resection on QoL, exercise tolerance and muscle strength. Fifty-three (28 male) patients attending thoracotomy for lung cancer, mean age, range 64 (32-82) years; mean pack years (SD) 31.9 (26.8); BMI 25.6 (4.2); FEV1 2.0 (0.7) l were randomised to control (usual care) or intervention (twice daily training plus usual care). After discharge the intervention group received monthly home visits and weekly telephone calls, the control group received monthly telephone calls up to 12 weeks. Assessment pre-operatively, 5 day and 12 weeks post-operatively consisted of quadriceps strength using magnetic stimulation, 6 Minute Walking Distance (6MWD) and QoL-EORTC-QLQ-LC13. QoL was unchanged over 12 weeks; 6MWD showed significant deterioration at 5 days post-operatively compared with pre-operatively, mean difference (SD)-131.6 (101.8) m and -128.0 (90.7) m in active and control groups respectively (p=0.89 between groups) which returned to pre-operative levels by 12 weeks in both groups. Quadriceps strength over the 5 day in-patient period showed a decrease of -8.3 (11.3) kg in the control group compared to increase of 4.0 (21.2) kg in the intervention group (p=0.04 between groups). Strength training after thoracotomy successfully prevented the fall in quadriceps strength seen in controls, however, there was no effect on 6MWD or QoL. 6MWD returned to pre-operative levels by 12 weeks regardless of additional support offered.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / rehabilitation*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery
  • Muscle Strength
  • Perioperative Period
  • Quality of Life*
  • Thoracotomy / rehabilitation*
  • Time Factors