What is preoperative rehabilitation?

Your surgery is booked in and, of course, you want it to go well. You’ve cleared your calendar, booked time off work and read all the pre-op information you’ve been given. What else can you do? 

Maybe some preoperative rehab. We’ll look at what that is and how it can help your recovery. But first let’s take a moment to consider the impact of surgery on your body. 

The stress of surgery

Let’s face it – surgery is stressful. You’ve probably spent a fair bit of time exploring your treatment options, seeking advice then deciding surgery is the way to go. Then you’ve looked into surgeons, weighed the cost of surgery, checked what your health fund will cover and carved out time in your schedule for the op and the recovery afterwards. 

Then there’s the surgery itself. Surgery is a major stress on your body. Even if everything goes well, you’ve still experienced an invasive procedure that’s cut through layers of tissue or inserted instruments into your body. If you’ve had something like a knee reconstruction or a heart valve replacement, then the surgery has also changed your body, as it was intended to. 

All that takes some getting used to afterwards.  Returning to your normal activities is usually done gradually under the supervision of your rehab team. Wounds need time to heal and newly repaired parts of your body need support to work smoothly. If you’ve been off your feet for a while due to injury or bed rest, then you also need to rebuild overall fitness.

Making a good recovery after surgery isn’t just about what happens afterwards. It’s about what happens before surgery too. It’s about preoperative rehab. 

What is preoperative rehab?

Preoperative rehabilitation refers to an exercise program before surgery that aims to get you into the best possible shape before your op to aid your recovery after it. 

What are the benefits of preoperative rebab?

Studies show general benefits of preoperative rehab and specific benefits for particular types of surgery. 

One of the biggest predictors of a good recovery is your cardiorespiratory fitness before your op. In simple terms, cardiorespiratory fitness is about how well your heart and lungs are able to transport oxygen to your muscles, and how well your muscles then use the oxygen to create energy. It’s a particularly important pre-op measure if you’re over 75. 

Improving cardiorespiratory fitness before your operation can:

Operations vary considerably. That’s why researchers study the benefits of pre-op rehabilitation before specific surgeries. Research is ongoing, but so far, pre-op rehabilitation has proved helpful before many types of surgeries. Here’s a few: 

Hip replacement surgery

Pre-op exercise helps to reduce post-op pain and length of hospital stay and improve post-op function. 

Knee replacement surgery

Pre-op rehab reduces time in hospital and improves post-op knee function and quadriceps strength.  

Cardiac surgery

A 2012 review found that preoperative physiotherapy reduced post-op complications and length of hospital stay. Strengthening your breathing muscles before surgery has been shown to reduce anaesthetic risks, reduce complications of surgery and improve lung function after surgery. 

Abdominal surgery

Exercises to strengthen your breathing muscles, aerobic exercises, and/or resistance training can decrease postoperative complications after abdominal surgery. Pre-op rehab may also improve the outcomes of bariatric surgery. 

Colorectal surgery

Pre-op rehab can improve physical function, peak exercise capacity and mental health.

Pre-op rehabilitation at Sycamore Health

Our physios at Sycamore Health want you to be in the best shape before your surgery so you can experience the full benefits. That’s why we offer a pre-surgical rehabilitation service

Your pre-op physio program will vary depending on the nature of your condition and your operation. It may include:

  • Cardiovascular exercise to improve overall fitness
  • Strength and flexibility training 
  • Pain relief and massage. 

Book an appointment.

All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.

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