Patients should exercise in lead up to surgery

Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital has researched the role of exercise training for patients in the weeks leading up to major surgery.

With funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the study determined whether high-intensity interval training (HIIT), performed three times a week for four weeks prior to aneurysm surgery, was feasible to deliver and acceptable to patients.

Published in the British Journal of Surgery, the research focused on patients who had abdominal aortic aneurysms – a potentially life-threatening swelling on the main abdominal blood vessel. No serious medical events occurred in the 53 people who exercised, with many showing improvements in fitness. Additionally, there was also evidence of a higher level of independence and physical functioning at 12 weeks after surgery among participants who exercised compared with those who did not.

Dr Garry Tew, from Northumbria University’s Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, said: “Evidence shows that the fitter you are before surgery the better your outcome. We know that HIIT is a time-efficient way of increasing fitness in people without medical conditions, but less is known about how feasible and useful it is in people awaiting surgery. A potential concern in people with aneurysms is that surges in blood pressure during exercise may cause complications.”

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the James Cook University Hospital, has been funded to deliver a service improvement project alongside Northumbria University, South Tees CCG and Public Health (Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland).

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