Background: How patients recover and resume everyday life after curative hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) surgery with intestinal reconstruction has, to our knowledge, not previously been investigated. We wanted to explore the patient experience in order to develop our capability to support their rehabilitation and identify interventional gaps in the current post-surgical care of these patients. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to explore patients' experiences of their gut, digestion, recovery and uptake of everyday life after HPB surgery with intestinal reconstruction.
Methods: A qualitative explorative study with semi-structured interviews with 12 patients. We analysed data using qualitative content analysis with an inductive approach.
Results: Two main themes with six sub-themes emerged from the analysis: 1. "Disrupted gut" covering the sub-themes: the weakened body; fighting cachexia; re-aligning to the altered body. 2. "Recovery work" with the sub-themes: the value of municipal rehabilitation programmes; reclaiming the sociality of meals; going back to work. The patients described overarching digestive changes, predominantly diarrhea and nausea. Diarrhea and nausea challenged rehabilitation efforts and limited patients' participation in social activities. Patients toiled to regain strength and every-day life as it was before surgery. Current municipal rehabilitation programmes facilitated these efforts.
Conclusions: The patients articulated an overarching experience of gut disruption, predominantly presenting as nausea, diarrhea and difficulty eating. This challenged their recovery work and uptake of every-day life. Specialised follow-up at expert centres might mitigate the sequelae of gut disruption after HPB surgery. We suggest that follow-up programmes systematically monitor the experienced symptoms of gut disruption with HPB-specific PROMS. Furthermore, research into the pathophysiology of cachexia and novel interventions for reducing cachexia and weakness after curative HPB surgery is relevant.
Keywords: Cancer; Follow-up; HPB; Qualitative; Rehabilitation; Surgery; Symptoms.