Systematic review of outcomes used to evaluate enhanced recovery after surgery

Br J Surg. 2014 Feb;101(3):159-70. doi: 10.1002/bjs.9324.


Background: Enhanced recovery pathways (ERPs) aim to improve patient recovery. However, validated outcome measures to evaluate this complex process are lacking. The objective of this review was to identify how recovery is measured in ERP studies and to provide recommendations for the design of future studies.

Methods: A systematic search of MEDLINE, Embase and Cochrane databases was conducted. Prospective studies evaluating ERPs compared with traditional care in abdominal surgery published between 2000 and 2013 were included. All reported outcomes were classified into categories: biological and physiological variables, symptom status, functional status, general health perceptions and quality of life (QoL). The phase of recovery measured was defined as baseline, intermediate (in hospital) and late (following discharge).

Results: A total of 38 studies were included based on the systematic review criteria. Biological or physiological variables other than postoperative complications were reported in 30 studies, and included return of gastrointestinal function (25 studies), pulmonary function (5) and physical strength (3). Patient-reported symptoms, including pain (16 studies) and fatigue (9), were reported less commonly. Reporting of functional status outcomes, including mobilization (16 studies) and ability to perform activities of daily living (4), was similarly uncommon. Health aspects of QoL were reported in only seven studies. Length of follow-up was generally short, with 24 studies reporting outcomes within 30 days or less. All studies documented in-hospital outcomes (intermediate phase), but only 17 reported postdischarge outcomes (late phase) other than complications or readmission.

Conclusion: Patient-reported outcomes, particularly postdischarge functional status, were not commonly reported. Future studies of the effectiveness of ERPs should include validated, patient-reported outcomes to estimate better their impact on recovery, particularly after discharge from hospital.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Postoperative Care / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications / rehabilitation*
  • Quality of Life
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Research Design