Effect of prehabilitation on objectively measured physical fitness after neoadjuvant treatment in preoperative rectal cancer patients: a blinded interventional pilot study

Br J Anaesth. 2015 Feb;114(2):244-51. doi: 10.1093/bja/aeu318. Epub 2014 Oct 1.


Background: Patients requiring surgery for locally advanced rectal cancer often additionally undergo neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (NACRT), of which the effects on physical fitness are unknown. The aim of this feasibility and pilot study was to investigate the effects of NACRT and a 6 week structured responsive exercise training programme (SRETP) on oxygen uptake [Formula: see text] at lactate threshold ([Formula: see text]) in such patients.

Methods: We prospectively studied 39 consecutive subjects (27 males) with T3-4/N+ resection margin threatened rectal cancer who completed standardized NACRT. Subjects underwent cardiopulmonary exercise testing at baseline (pre-NACRT), at week 0 (post-NACRT), and week 6 (post-SRETP). Twenty-two subjects undertook a 6 week SRETP on a training bike (three sessions per week) between week 0 and week 6 (exercise group). These were compared with 17 contemporaneous non-randomized subjects (control group). Changes in [Formula: see text] at [Formula: see text] over time and between the groups were compared using a compound symmetry covariance linear mixed model.

Results: Of 39 recruited subjects, 22 out of 22 (exercise) and 13 out of 17 (control) completed the study. There were differences between the exercise and control groups at baseline [age, ASA score physical status, World Health Organisation performance status, and Colorectal Physiologic and Operative Severity Score for the Enumeration of Mortality and Morbidity (CR-POSSUM) predicted mortality]. In all subjects, [Formula: see text] at [Formula: see text] significantly reduced between baseline and week 0 [-1.9 ml kg(-1) min(-1); 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.3, -2.6; P<0.0001]. In the exercise group, [Formula: see text] at [Formula: see text] significantly improved between week 0 and week 6 (+2.1 ml kg(-1) min(-1); 95% CI +1.3, +2.9; P<0.0001), whereas the control group values were unchanged (-0.7 ml kg(-1) min(-1); 95% CI -1.66, +0.37; P=0.204).

Conclusions: NACRT before rectal cancer surgery reduces physical fitness. A structured exercise intervention is feasible post-NACRT and returns fitness to baseline levels within 6 weeks.

Clinical trial registration nct: 01325909.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01325909.

Keywords: anaerobic threshold; cardiopulmonary exercise test; exercise; prehabilitation; rectal cancer; surgery.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anaerobic Threshold / physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise Test
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods*
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / mortality
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Preoperative Care
  • Rectal Neoplasms / surgery*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01325909