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A randomised controlled trial of prehabilitation in patients undergoing elective cardiac surgery

Akowuah, E.F.; Wagnild, J.M.; Bardgett, M.; Prichard, J.G.; Mathias, A.; Harrison, S.L.; Ogundimu, E.O.; Hancock, H.C.; Maier, R.H.

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E.F. Akowuah

M. Bardgett

J.G. Prichard

A. Mathias

S.L. Harrison

H.C. Hancock

R.H. Maier


The feasibility, safety and efficacy of prehabilitation in adult patients awaiting elective cardiac surgery are unknown. A total of 180 participants undergoing elective cardiac surgery were allocated randomly to receive either standard pre-operative care or prehabilitation, consisting of pre-operative exercise and inspiratory muscle training. The primary outcome was change in six-minute walk test distance from baseline to pre-operative assessment. Secondary outcomes included change in inspiratory muscle strength (maximal inspiratory pressure); sarcopenia (handgrip strength); quality of life and compliance. Safety outcomes were pre-specified surgical and pulmonary complications and adverse events. All outcomes were assessed at baseline; at pre-operative assessment; and 6 and 12 weeks following surgery. Mean (SD) age was 64.7 (10.2) years; 33/180 (18%) were women. In total, 65/91 (71.4%) participants who were allocated to prehabilitation attended at least four of eight supervised in-hospital exercise classes; participants aged > 50 years were more likely than younger participants to attend (odds ratio (95%CI) of 4.6 (1.0–25.1)). Six-minute walk test was not significantly different between groups (mean difference (95%CI) -7.8 m (-30.6–15.0), p = 0.503) in the intention-to-treat analysis. Subgroup analyses based on tests for interaction indicated improvements in six-minute walk test distance were larger amongst sarcopenic patients in the prehabilitation group (p = 0.004). Change in maximal inspiratory pressure from baseline to all time-points was significantly greater in the prehabilitation group, with the greatest mean difference (95%CI) observed 12 weeks after surgery (10.6 cmH2O (4.6–16.6) cmH2O, p < 0.001). There were no differences in handgrip strength or quality of life up to 12 weeks after surgery. There was no significant difference in postoperative mortality (one death in each group), surgical or pulmonary complications. Of 71 pre-operative adverse events, six (8.5%) were related to prehabilitation. The combination of exercise and inspiratory muscle training in a prehabilitation intervention before cardiac surgery was not superior to standard care in improving functional exercise capacity measured by six-minute walk test distance pre-operatively. Future trials should target patients living with sarcopenia and include inspiratory muscle strength training.


Akowuah, E., Wagnild, J., Bardgett, M., Prichard, J., Mathias, A., Harrison, S., …Maier, R. (2023). A randomised controlled trial of prehabilitation in patients undergoing elective cardiac surgery. Anaesthesia: Peri-operative medicine, critical care and pain, 78(9), 1120-1128.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 7, 2023
Online Publication Date Jul 4, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Jul 5, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 7, 2024
Journal Anaesthesia
Print ISSN 0003-2409
Electronic ISSN 1365-2044
Publisher Wiley
Volume 78
Issue 9
Pages 1120-1128
Public URL


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