Postoperative ambulation in thoracic surgery patients: standard versus modern ambulation methods

Nurs Crit Care. 2012 May-Jun;17(3):130-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1478-5153.2011.00480.x. Epub 2012 Jan 30.


Aim: A single-subject study of two methods of postoperative ambulation of patients recovering from thoracic surgery.

Background: During the postoperative setting, patients are often burdened by their condition that reduces their ability to ambulate. This problem is compounded by the addition of devices that make walking more cumbersome. To simplify the process of ambulation during the postoperative period, an intravenous pole/walker (IVPW) was specifically designed to allow all patient devices and attachments to accompany the patient during ambulation, without the need for supplemental caregiver assistance.

Methods: The IVPW method of ambulation was compared with standard method of ambulation (SMA) in a single-subject clinical trial. Thirty-nine consecutive thoracic surgery patients with at least an IV and chest tube were ambulated using alternatively either the IVPW or the SMA. Immediately following the ambulation periods, the patient and patient's health care worker assessed both methods using satisfaction surveys consisting of several questions about the episodes of ambulation and the number of health care workers needed to assist during ambulation.

Results: Patient satisfaction was significantly higher in the ability of the IVPW to provide support and assist in ambulation in comparison with the SMA (p < 0·001). Nurses felt the IVPW both facilitated and provided a safer method for ambulation compared with the SMA (p < 0·001). On average, one less employee was required during ambulation with the IVPW (p < 0·001).

Conclusion: The IVPW provided better support and was perceived as a safer method for ambulation compared with the SMA. The IVPW also required one less person to assist with ambulation.

Relevance to clinical practice: Facilitation of ambulation in the postoperative setting can impact nursing care and patient satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Catheters, Indwelling / standards
  • Chest Tubes / standards
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous / methods*
  • Infusions, Intravenous / psychology
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Staff / psychology
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Satisfaction* / statistics & numerical data
  • Postoperative Care / methods*
  • Postoperative Care / nursing
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thoracic Surgical Procedures / standards*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Walking / psychology*