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Postoperative Work and Activity Restrictions After Abdominal Surgery: A Systematic Review.

Loor MM, Shah P, Olavarria OA, Dhanani N, Franz MG, Trautner BW, Liang MK. Postoperative Work and Activity Restrictions After Abdominal Surgery: A Systematic Review. Annals of surgery. 2021 Aug 1; 274(2):290-297.

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OBJECTIVE: This systematic review aims to assess what is known about convalescence following abdominal surgery. Through a review of the basic science and clinical literature, we explored the effect of physical activity on the healing fascia and the optimal timing for postoperative activity. BACKGROUND: Abdominal surgery confers a 30% risk of incisional hernia development. To mitigate this, surgeons often impose postoperative activity restrictions. However, it is unclear whether this is effective or potentially harmful in preventing hernias. METHODS: We conducted 2 separate systematic reviews using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. The first assessed available basic science literature on fascial healing. The second assessed available clinical literature on activity after abdominal surgery. RESULTS: Seven articles met inclusion criteria for the basic science review and 22 for the clinical studies review. The basic science data demonstrated variability in maximal tensile strength and time for fascial healing, in part due to differences in layer of abdominal wall measured. Some animal studies indicated a positive effect of physical activity on the healing wound. Most clinical studies were qualitative, with only 3 randomized controlled trials on this topic. Variability was reported on clinician recommendations, time to return to activity, and factors that influence return to activity. Interventions designed to shorten convalescence demonstrated improvements only in patient-reported symptoms. None reported an association between activity and complications, such as incisional hernia. CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review identified gaps in our understanding of what is best for patients recovering from abdominal surgery. Randomized controlled trials are crucial in safely optimizing the recovery period.

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