Background: Early mobilization is considered an important element of postoperative care; however, how best to implement this intervention in clinical practice is unknown. This systematic review summarizes the evidence regarding the impact of specific early mobilization protocols on postoperative outcomes after abdominal and thoracic surgery.
Method: The review was performed according to PRISMA guidelines. We searched 8 electronic databases to identify studies comparing patients receiving a specific protocol of early mobilization to a control group. Methodologic quality was assessed using the Downs and Black tool.
Results: Four studies in abdominal surgery (3 randomized controlled trials [RCTs] and 1 observational prospective study) and 4 studies in thoracic surgery (3 RCTs and 1 observational retrospective study) were identified. None of the 5 studies evaluating postoperative complications reported differences between groups. One of 4 studies evaluating duration of stay reported a significant decrease in the intervention group. One of 3 studies evaluating gastrointestinal function reported differences in favor of the intervention group. One of 4 studies evaluating performance-based outcomes reported differences in favor of the intervention group. One of 5 studies evaluating patient-reported outcomes reported differences in favor of the intervention group. Overall methodologic quality was poor.
Conclusion: Few comparative studies have evaluated the impact of early mobilization protocols on outcomes after abdominal and thoracic surgery. The quality of these studies was poor and results were conflicting. Although bed rest is harmful, there is little available evidence to guide clinicians in effective early mobilization protocols that increase mobilization and improve outcomes.
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