|Brief training in breathing exercises before upper abdominal surgery significantly reduces postoperative pulmonary complications, a study in The BMJ finds.
Over 400 adults scheduled for surgery (e.g., colectomy, nephrectomy) were randomized to a breathing exercise intervention or a control group. All patients received, within 6 weeks before surgery, an information booklet that prescribed postoperative breathing exercises. Intervention patients also had a 30-minute session with a physical therapist who provided training in the breathing exercises.
The primary outcome — postoperative pulmonary complications within 14 days — occurred less often in the intervention versus control group (12% vs. 27%). The researchers calculated that seven patients would need to receive the intervention to prevent one pulmonary complication. In addition, hospital-acquired pneumonia was halved with the intervention (8% vs. 20%).
The researchers conclude, “These results are directly applicable to the tens of millions of patients listed for elective major abdominal surgery worldwide. This service could be considered for all patients awaiting upper abdominal surgery.”