Objective: The aim of this study was to determine whether preoperative nutritional counseling and exercise (prehabilitation) in obese patients with ventral hernia repair (VHR) results in more hernia-free and complication-free patients.
Background: Obesity and poor fitness are associated with complications following VHR. These issues are prevalent in low socioeconomic status patients.
Methods: This was a blinded, randomized controlled trial at a safety-net academic institution. Obese patients (BMI 30 to 40) seeking VHR were randomized to prehabilitation versus standard counseling. VHR was performed once preoperative requirements were met: 7% total body weight loss or 6 months of counseling and no weight gain. Primary outcome was the proportion of hernia-free and complication-free patients. Secondary outcomes were wound complications at 1 month postoperative and weight loss measures. Univariate analysis was performed.
Results: Among 118 randomized patients, prehabilitation was associated with a higher percentage of patients who lost weight and achieved weight loss goals; however, prehabilitation was also associated with a higher dropout rate and need for emergent repair. VHR was performed in 44 prehabilitation and 34 standard counseling patients. There was a trend toward less wound complication in prehabilitation patients (6.8% vs 17.6%, P = 0.167). The prehabilitation group was more likely to be hernia-free and complication-free (69.5% vs 47.5%, P = 0.015).
Conclusions: It is feasible to implement a prehabilitation program for obese patients at a safety-net hospital. Prehabilitation patients have a higher likelihood of being hernia-free and complication-free postoperatively. Although further trials and long-term outcomes are needed, prehabilitation may benefit obese surgical patients, but there may be increased risks of dropout and emergent repair.
Clinical trial registration: This trial was registered with clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02365194).