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Randomized controlled trial of prophylactic chest physiotherapy in major abdominal surgery

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Introduction This randomized controlled study evaluated the clinical benefit and physiological effects of prophylactic chest physiotherapy in open major abdominal surgery.

Methods A group of 174 patients received chest physiotherapy including breathing with pursed lips, huffing and coughing, and information about the importance of early mobilization. In addition high-risk patients were given resistance training on inspiration and expiration with a mask. The resistance used during inspiration was -5 cmH2O and that during expiration +10 cmH2O. The control group (194 patients) received no information or treatment unless a pulmonary complication occurred.

Results Oxygen saturation on postoperative days 1-3 was significantly greater in the treatment group. Treated patients were mobilized significantly earlier. No difference was noted in peak expiratory flow rate or forced vital capacity. Postoperative pulmonary complications occurred in 6 per cent of patients in the treatment group and in 27 per cent of controls (P<0ยท001). In high-risk patients the numbers with pulmonary complications were six of 40 and 20 of 39 respectively. Pulmonary complications were particularly common in patients with morbid obesity.

Conclusion Preoperative chest physiotherapy reduced the incidence of postoperative pulmonary complications and improved mobilization and oxygen saturation after major abdominal surgery.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Physiotherapy 2: Surgery, Sahlgrenska Sjukhuset, University of Goteborg, Goteborg, Sweden

Publication date: November 1, 1997

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