The Impact of Total Body Prehabilitation on Post-Operative Outcomes After Major Abdominal Surgery: A Systematic Review

Alison Luther, Joseph Gabriel, Richard P. Watson, Nader K. Francis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Despite advances in perioperative care, post-operative clinical and functional outcomes after major abdominal surgery can be suboptimal. Prehabilitation programmes attempt to optimise a patient’s preoperative condition to improve outcomes. Total body prehabilitation includes structured exercise, nutritional optimisation, psychological support and cessation of negative health behaviours. This systematic review aims to report on the current literature regarding the impact of total body prehabilitation prior to major abdominal surgery. Methods: Relevant studies published between January 2000 and July 2017 were identified using MEDLINE, EMBASE, AMED, CINAHL, PsychINFO, PubMed, and the Cochrane Database. All studies published in a peer-reviewed journal, assessing post-operative clinical and functional outcomes, following a prehabilitation programme prior to major abdominal surgery were included. Studies with less than ten patients, or a prehabilitation programme lasting less than 7 days were excluded. Results: Sixteen studies were included, incorporating 2591 patients, with 1255 undergoing a prehabilitation programme. The studies were very heterogeneous, with multiple surgical sub-specialties, prehabilitation techniques, and outcomes assessed. Post-operative complication rate was reduced in six gastrointestinal studies utilising either preoperative exercise, nutritional supplementation in malnourished patients or smoking cessation. Improved functional outcomes were observed following a multimodal prehabilitation programme. Compliance was variably measured across the studies (range 16–100%). Conclusions: There is substantial heterogeneity in the prehabilitation programmes used prior to major abdominal surgery. A multimodal approach is likely to have better impact on functional outcomes compared to single modality; however, there is insufficient data either to identify the optimum programme, or to recommend routine clinical implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalWorld Journal of Surgery
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Mar 2018


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