AIM: Prehabilitation, defined as enhancement of the preoperative condition of a patient, is a possible strategy for improving postoperative outcome. Lack of muscle strength and poor physical condition, increasingly prevalent in older patients, are risk factors for postoperative complications. Eighty-five per cent of patients with colorectal cancer are aged over 60 years. Since surgery is the cornerstone of their treatment, this review systemically examined the literature on the effect of physical prehabilitation in older patients undergoing colorectal surgery.
METHOD: Trials and case-control studies investigating the effect of physical prehabilitation in patients over 60 years undergoing colorectal surgery were retrieved from MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and the Cochrane library. Patient characteristics, the type of intervention and outcome measurements were recorded. The risk of bias and heterogeneity was assessed.
RESULTS: Five studies including 353 patients were identified. They were small, containing an average of 77 patients and were of moderate methodological quality. Compliance rates of the prehabilitation programme varied from 16 to 97%. None of the studies could identify a significant reduction of postoperative complications or length of hospital stay. Four studies showed physical improvement (walking distance, respiratory endurance) in the prehabilitation group. Clinical heterogeneity precluded a meta-analysis.
CONCLUSION: Prehabilitation is a possible means of enhancing the physical condition of patients preoperatively. The quality of studies in older patients undergoing colorectal surgery is poor, despite the increase in elderly people with colorectal cancer. Defining specific patient groups at risk and standardizing the outcome are essential for improving the results of treatment.