June 01, 2019

Nutritional prehabilitation improves outcomes

Many doctors recommend a health-improving program in the weeks leading up to colorectal surgeries. This process — known as prehabilitation — is designed to optimize your overall health before surgery in order to improve recovery. Numerous studies have examined the benefits of adopting a regular exercise regimen before colorectal surgery. Now, new research points to the value of nutritional prehabilitation as well.

The analysis, published in the August 2018 issue of Gastroenterology, looked at nine studies of people who underwent colorectal surgery. Some had nutritional prehabilitation, meaning they received support such as personalized nutrition counseling or supplemental protein to improve muscle mass. Others followed a more comprehensive prehabilitation program including nutritional support, and aerobic and resistance training exercises.

The researchers found that those who did comprehensive prehabilitation spent significantly fewer days in the hospital after surgery — an average of two days fewer than those who didn't do any prehabilitation. Interestingly, those who did only the nutritional component of prehabilitation experienced the same level of benefit. There was also evidence that a combination of nutrition and exercise brought about a quicker return to functional ability.

Mayo Clinic experts routinely recommend a number of prehabilitation strategies designed to build strength, improve nutrition and manage stress before many types of surgery if time and ability allow.