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'Prehab' Before Surgery Helps Speed Seniors' Recovery
  • Robert Preidt
  • Posted December 13, 2019

'Prehab' Before Surgery Helps Speed Seniors' Recovery

"Training" for surgery can improve seniors' outcomes and reduce insurance costs, a new study says.

It included 523 Medicare patients in Michigan, average age 70, who exercised, ate a healthy diet and practiced stress reduction techniques for at least one week before a major operation. It's a process the researchers called prehabilitation, or prehab for short.

These patients were compared to a control group of 1,046 Medicare patients who had the same operations at the same hospitals but did not do prehab.

Patients studied had different types of chest/heart and abdominal operations at 21 hospitals in Michigan.

Compared to the control group, prehab patients had shorter hospital stays (a median six days versus seven days). Two-thirds went straight home from the hospital, compared to 57% of the control group.

Medicare paid nearly $3,200 less for hospital and post-hospital care for the prehab group than for controls: $31,641 versus $34,837.

Insurance payments were lower among prehab patients for post-hospital care -- including skilled nursing facilities ($941 versus $1,566 for controls) and home health care ($829 versus $960 for controls), according to the study published online Dec. 5 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

"Prehabilitation is good for patients, providers, and payers," said study co-author Dr. Michael Englesbe, a transplant surgeon at the University of Michigan. "We believe every patient should train for a major operation. It's like running a 5K race: You have to prepare."

Prehab makes the most of a patient's well-being and ability to withstand the stress of surgery, Englesbe said in a journal news release.

Previous research found prehab provides a number of benefits, including a lower rate of postoperative complications and speedier return to normal functioning.

"Prehab has been gaining momentum over the past 10 years. More surgeons and other clinicians are appreciating its benefits," Englesbe said. "However, the feasibility and value of broad implementation of prehabilitation outside the research environment were unknown."

He said every patient scheduled for major surgery -- not just those at high risk -- should ask their doctor for a prehab program.

More information

The AARP has more on prehab before surgery.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Surgeons, news release, Dec. 5, 2019
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