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Effects of enhanced recovery after surgery plus pulmonary rehabilitation on complications after video-assisted lung cancer surgery: a multicentre randomised controlled trial


Background Lung cancer surgery is associated with a high incidence of postoperative pulmonary complications (PPCs). We evaluated whether enhanced recovery after surgery plus pulmonary rehabilitation was superior over enhanced recovery after surgery alone in reducing the incidence of postoperative PPCs and length of hospital stay.

Methods In this pragmatic multicentre, randomised controlled, parallel-group clinical trial, eligible patients scheduled for video-assisted lung cancer surgery were randomly assigned (1:1) to either a newly developed programme that integrated preoperative and postoperative pulmonary rehabilitation components into a generic thoracic enhanced recovery after surgery pathway, or routine thoracic enhanced recovery after surgery. Primary outcome was the overall occurrence of PPCs within 2 weeks after surgery. Secondary outcomes were the occurrence of specific complications, time to removal of chest drain, and length of hospital stay (LOS).

Results Of 428 patients scheduled for lung cancer surgery, 374 were randomised with 187 allocated to the experimental programme and 187 to control. Incidence of PPCs at 14 Days was 18.7% (35/187) in the experimental group and 33.2% (62/187) in the control group (intention-to-treat, unadjusted HR 0.524, 95% CI 0.347 to 0.792, p=0.002). Particularly, significant risk reduction was observed regarding pleural effusion, pneumonia and atelectasis. Time to removal of chest drain and LOS were not significantly reduced in the experimental group.

Conclusions Adding pulmonary rehabilitation to enhanced recovery after surgery appears to be effective in reducing the incidence of PPCs, but not LOS. Standard integration of pulmonary rehabilitation into thoracic enhanced recovery after surgery is a promising approach to PPC prophylaxis.

Trial registration number ChiCTR1900024646.

  • lung cancer
  • pulmonary rehabilitation

Data availability statement

Data are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

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