Effect of postsurgical rehabilitation programmes in patients operated for lung cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Rehabil Med. 2018 Feb 28;50(3):236-245. doi: 10.2340/16501977-2292.


Objective: To review the evidence concerning the effects of postoperative exercise interventions on exercise capacity and health-related quality of life following resection for non-small cell lung cancer, and to review whether different initiation times of exercise produce different effects on exercise capacity.

Data sources: Comprehensive literature search of MEDLINE, Embase, CENTRAL, CINAHL and PEDro.

Study selection: Randomized controlled trials examining the effects of exercise interventions were eligible for inclusion.

Data extraction: Postoperative outcome measurements were extracted and the quality of evidence was graded using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) Working Group.

Data synthesis: Four randomized controlled trials were identified involving 262 participants. Short-term follow-up (12-20 weeks) showed significantly higher exercise capacity and physical component of health-related quality of life in the intervention group (standardized mean difference (SMD) 0.48; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.04-0.93) compared with the control group (SMD 0.50; 95% CI 0.19-0.82). There was no difference between the effect of late- and early-initiated exercise intervention.

Conclusion: Exercise has a small-to-moderate effect at short-term follow-up on exercise capacity and the physical component of health-related quality of life in patients operated for lung cancer. The long-term effects of exercise capacity are unknown. Early-initiated exercise programmes (2 weeks post-operation) did not show an effect on exercise capacity. These findings should be interpreted with caution.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / rehabilitation*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Period
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic