A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of early mobilization therapy in patients after cardiac surgery

Medicine (Baltimore). 2021 Apr 16;100(15):e25314. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000025314.


Background: Prolonged hospitalization and immobility of critical care patients elevate the risk of long-term physical and cognitive impairments. However, the therapeutic effects of early mobilization have been difficult to interpret due to variations in study populations, interventions, and outcome measures. We conducted a meta-analysis to assess the effects of early mobilization therapy on cardiac surgery patients in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Methods: PubMed, Excerpta Medica database (EMBASE), Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), and the Cochrane Library were comprehensively searched from their inception to September 2018. Randomized controlled trials were included if patients were adults (≥18 years) admitted to any ICU for cardiac surgery due to cardiovascular disease and who were treated with experimental physiotherapy initiated in the ICU (pre, post, or peri-operative). Data were extracted by 2 reviewers independently using a pre-constructed data extraction form. Length of ICU and hospital stay was evaluated as the primary outcomes. Physical function and adverse events were assessed as the secondary outcomes. Review Manager 5.3 (RevMan 5.3) was used for statistical analysis. For all dichotomous variables, relative risks or odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were presented. For all continuous variables, mean differences (MDs) or standard MDs with 95% CIs were calculated.

Results: The 5 studies with a total of 652 patients were included in the data synthesis final meta-analysis. While a slight favorable effect was detected in 3 out of the 5 studies, the overall effects were not significant, even after adjusting for heterogeneity.

Conclusions: This population-specific evaluation of the efficacy of early mobilization to reduce hospitalization duration suggests that intervention may not universally justify the labor barriers and resource costs in patients undergoing non-emergency cardiac surgery.

Prospero research registration identifying number: CRD42019135338.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / rehabilitation*
  • Early Ambulation / methods*
  • Early Ambulation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data*
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Physical Functional Performance
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic