“Prehabilitation” may improve heart surgery recovery

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After heart surgery, patients often enroll in cardiac rehabilitation, a multiweek program of structured exercise paired with lifestyle and nutrition education. A new review suggests that a similar program done prior to surgery, known as "prehabilitation," may help older, frail people to recover better from heart surgery.

The prehab approach goes by the acronym NEW, which stands for nutritional status, exercise capacity, and worry reduction. Targeting those three factors seems to improve people's physical and psychological readiness for undergoing surgery, according to the article, published in the July Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

In Canada, people who need non-urgent heart surgery are placed on waiting lists for up to two months. During that time, they often don't exercise and may worry about the upcoming procedure. The resulting physical and mental deconditioning may compromise their recovery. Two large studies are currently testing the NEW prehab protocol in older, frail adults who are awaiting various heart procedures, including bypass surgery and heart valve replacement.