Specifically, here is a short high-intensity interval training program (HIIT)
which, followed before the operation, helps considerably in the recovery. The analysis confirms and combines previous research that has already suggested that exercise, such as therapeutic patient education (TEP), pain management training, psychological support and other preparatory measures before an intervention, optimizes the results of surgery and promotes recovery.
Optimize the patient’s preoperative fitness within weeks
The study is a literature review and meta-analysis of 12 studies involving 832 patients, mean age 66, who underwent preoperative HIIT training, involving repeated sessions of high-intensity aerobic exercise at approximately 80% of maximum heart rate. Participants underwent all types of major surgery, including procedures lasting 2 hours or more, some with blood loss greater than 500 ml, including abdominal, pulmonary, colorectal, urological and mixed surgeries.
Lead author Dr. Kari Clifford concludes: “We found that HIIT-style preoperative training is safe and effective for these surgical patients. Such a program makes it possible to significantly improve the patient’s physical condition in just 4 to 6 weeks and reduce postoperative complications and the length of hospitalization”. Among the results observed:
- a dramatic improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness that measures the body’s ability to absorb oxygen and deliver it to muscles and organs during prolonged periods of exercise: HIIT increases cardiorespiratory fitness by 2.39 ml/min/kg, a particularly clinically significant result ;
- a steady reduction in postoperative complications, such as cardiac complications, pneumonia and intestinal problems after surgery, compared to an average incidence of postoperative complications in approximately 30% of patients and in up to 50% of frail patients;
- HIIT reduces the risk of complications by an average of 56%;
- HIIT also reduces hospital stay by an average of 3 days.
Together, these results suggest that a short period of a few weeks of HIIT-type training before surgery can significantly improve patient outcomes.
Implementing these programs remains a challenge: because supervised exercise programs can be expensive and there are few proper structures and professionals to supervise them. Should they be implemented in the hospital, in the community or is it possible at home? According to the researchers, “the game is worth the candle”, because these programs can lead to considerable savings, linked to the reduction of complications and hospitalization.
In the meantime, the message can be sent by surgeons to patients who will undergo surgery: “It’s never too late to improve your fitness, and it can really make a difference in health outcomes after surgery.”