Research supports use of prehabilitation to optimize physical status before and after colorectal cancer resection, but its effect on postoperative complications remains unclear. Frail patients are a target for prehabilitation interventions owing to increased risk for poor postoperative outcomes.
To assess the extent to which a prehabilitation program affects 30-day postoperative complications in frail patients undergoing colorectal cancer resection compared with postoperative rehabilitation.
This single-blind, parallel-arm, superiority randomized clinical trial recruited patients undergoing colorectal cancer resection from September 7, 2015, through June 19, 2019. Patients were followed up for 4 weeks before surgery and 4 weeks after surgery at 2 university-affiliated tertiary hospitals. A total of 418 patients 65 years or older were assessed for eligibility. Of these, 298 patients were excluded (not frail [n = 290], unable to exercise [n = 3], and planned neoadjuvant treatment [n = 5]), and 120 frail patients (Fried Frailty Index,≥2) were randomized. Ten patients were excluded after randomization because they refused surgery (n = 3), died before surgery (n = 3), had no cancer (n = 1), had surgery without bowel resection (n = 1), or were switched to palliative care (n = 2). Hence, 110 patients were included in the intention-to-treat analysis (55 in the prehabilitation [Prehab] and 55 in the rehabilitation [Rehab] groups). Data were analyzed from July 25 through August 21, 2019.
Multimodal program involving exercise, nutritional, and psychological interventions initiated before (Prehab group) or after (Rehab group) surgery. All patients were treated within a standardized enhanced recovery pathway.
The primary outcome included the Comprehensive Complications Index measured at 30 days after surgery. Secondary outcomes were 30-day overall and severe complications, primary and total length of hospital stay, 30-day emergency department visits and hospital readmissions, recovery of walking capacity, and patient-reported outcome measures.
Of 110 patients randomized, mean (SD) age was 78 (7) years; 52 (47.3%) were men and 58 (52.7%) were women; 31 (28.2%) had rectal cancer; and 87 (79.1%) underwent minimally invasive surgery. There was no between-group difference in the primary outcome measure, 30-day Comprehensive Complications Index (adjusted mean difference, -3.2; 95% CI, -11.8 to 5.3; P = .45). Secondary outcome measures were also not different between groups.
In frail patients undergoing colorectal cancer resection (predominantly minimally invasive) within an enhanced recovery pathway, a multimodal prehabilitation program did not affect postoperative outcomes. Alternative strategies should be considered to optimize treatment of frail patients preoperatively.
ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02502760.