Background: Patients undergoing colorectal cancer resections are at risk for delayed recovery. Prehabilitation aims to enhance functional capacity preoperatively for better toleration of surgery and to facilitate recovery. The authors previously demonstrated the limited impact of a prehabilitation program using exercise alone. They propose an expanded trimodal prehabilitation program that adds nutritional counseling, protein supplementation, and anxiety reduction to a moderate exercise program. This study aimed to estimate the impact of this trimodal program on the recovery of functional capacity compared with standard surgical care.
Methods: Consecutive patients were enrolled in this pre- and postintervention study over a 23-month period. The postoperative recovery for 42 consecutive patients enrolled in the prehabilitation program was compared with that of 45 patients assessed before the intervention began. The primary outcome was functional walking capacity (6-min walk test [6MWT]). The secondary outcomes included self-reported physical activity (CHAMPS questionnaire) and health-related quality of life (SF-36). Data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation or median (interquartile range [IQR]) and were analyzed using Chi-square and Student's t test. All p values lower than 0.05 were considered significant.
Results: The prehabilitation and control groups were comparable in terms of age, gender, body mass index (BMI) and American Society of Anesthesiology (ASA) class. There was no difference in walking capacity at the first assessment (6MWT distance, 422 ± 87 vs 402 ± 57 m; p = 0.21). During the prehabilitation period lasting a median of 33 days (range, 21-46 days), functional walking capacity improved by 40 ± 40 m (p < 0.01). The postoperative complication rates and the hospital length of stay were similar. The patients in the prehabilitation program had better postoperative walking capacity at both 4 weeks (mean difference, 51.5 ± 93 m; p = 0.01) and 8 weeks (mean difference, 84.5 ± 83 m; p < 0.01). At 8 weeks, 81 % of the prehabilitated patients were recovered compared with 40 % of the control group (p < 0.01). The prehabilitation group also reported higher levels of physical activity before and after surgery.
Conclusion: In this pilot study, a 1-month trimodal prehabilitation program improved postoperative functional recovery. A randomized trial is ongoing (NCT01356264).