How ‘Pre-Hab’ Helps for Better Surgery Recovery

by Barry Hill
How ‘Pre-Hab’ Helps for Better Surgery Recovery

If you have undergone surgery before, you are probably familiar with the importance of physical therapy to rehabilitate your body and speed up recovery. However, you can get started on your recovery process sooner – in fact, pre-habilitation is something you can do before you even go under the knife to optimize your recovery. ‘Pre-hab’ helps for better surgery recovery, and helps your body regain function more quickly after surgery.

A McGill University study found that patients who completed pre-hab prior to colorectal cancer surgery were able to walk nearly 24 meters farther than when they started the study. Meanwhile, patients who only did rehabilitation therapy after surgery walked just under 22 meters less than pre-surgery. In this study, the pre-hab included a mix of aerobic exercise and strength training as well as nutritional counseling and supplements. The pre-hab commenced about 25 days before surgery and continued for eight weeks afterward.

Recently many surgeons and doctors have agreed that pre-hab has a huge effect on the patient’s outcome from surgery.

According to Vonda Wright, MD, and Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Sports Medicine, “Fifty percent of outcome success is due to the surgeon, and the other 50 percent is due to the patient’s commitment to recovery – starting with pre-hab.”

Even if it’s only done for a short time (the optimal window for pre-hab is 6-12 weeks before surgery), an exercise regimen designed for conditioning your body for surgery is highly effective at reducing needs for inpatient rehabilitation after surgery. Another study, completed by the New England Baptist Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, found that just six weeks of pre-hab reduced the odds of the need for inpatient rehabilitation by 73% for knee- and hip-replacement surgery patients.

“Their level of function and pain stabilized prior to surgery, whereas those who did not exercise got worse. The benefits of exercise before surgery are very clear: the more you can do for yourself physically before surgery, the better off you will be,” said Daniel Rooks, PHD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the lead study author.

In short, pre-hab helps you get on your feet more quickly after undergoing surgery, even if that surgery was for an ambulatory joint such as the knee or hip. It’s definitely something all of us should try to do, to pave the way for a speedier recovery.

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