Short-Term Preoperative High-Intensity Interval Training in Patients Awaiting Lung Cancer Surgery: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Thorac Oncol. 2017 Feb;12(2):323-333. doi: 10.1016/j.jtho.2016.09.125. Epub 2016 Oct 19.


Introduction: Impairment in aerobic fitness is a potential modifiable risk factor for postoperative complications. In this randomized controlled trial, we hypothesized that a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program enhances cardiorespiratory fitness before lung cancer surgery and therefore reduces the risk of postoperative complications.

Methods: Patients with operable lung cancer were randomly assigned to usual care (UC) (n = 77) or preoperative rehabilitation based on HIIT (Rehab) (n = 74). Maximal cardiopulmonary exercise testing and the 6-minute walk test were performed twice before surgery. The primary outcome measure was a composite of death and in-hospital postoperative complications.

Results: The groups were well balanced in terms of patient characteristics. During the preoperative waiting period (median 25 days), the peak oxygen consumption and the 6-minute walking distance increased (median +15%, interquartile range, 25th to 75 percentile [IQR25%-75%, %] = +9% to +22%, p = 0.003 and +15%, IQR25%-75% = +8% to +28%, p < 0.001, respectively) in the Rehab group, whereas peak oxygen consumption declined in the UC group (median -8%, IQR25%-75% = -16% to 0%], p = 0.005). The primary end point did not differ significantly between the two groups: at least one postoperative complication developed in 27 of the 74 patients (35.5%) in the Rehab group and 39 of 77 patients (50.6%) in the UC group (p = 0.080). Notably, the incidence of pulmonary complications was lower in the Rehab compared with in the UC group (23% versus 44%, p = 0.018), owing to a significant reduction in atelectasis (12.2% versus 36.4%, p < 0.001), and this decrease was accompanied by a shorter length of stay in the postanesthesia care unit (median -7 hours, IQR25%-75% = -4 to -10).

Conclusions: In this randomized controlled trial, preoperative HIIT resulted in significant improvement in aerobic performances but failed to reduce early complications after lung cancer resection.

Trial registration: NCT01258478.

Keywords: Aerobic capacity; Exercise training; Postoperative complications; Rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • High-Intensity Interval Training*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Preoperative Care
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Atelectasis / prevention & control*

Associated data