Royal College Launches Exercise Campaign to Reduce Mortality

Patients with low cardiorespiratory health are five times more likely to die during or just after a surgical procedure than their fitter counterparts, and on average an unfit person costs the NHS an extra £6,000 when they undergo an operation, due to longer recovery times in hospital.

Studies have identified anaerobic threshold (a measure of exercise intensity performance) as the single most significant predictor – much more accurate than age alone – of complications and mortality in surgery. To tackle this issue, for the first time ever the RCSEd is launching a UK-wide education campaign to get patients moving in the run-up to surgery.

Data published in the Annals of Surgery demonstrates that post-surgical mortality can be as high as 22% in patients with low levels of fitness, whereas patients who were fitter had only a 4% mortality rate. Many studies have also found an inverse relation between cardiorespiratory health and complications in heart, lung, colorectal and bariatric surgery.

Addressing this costly and avoidable matter, the College is asking patients to speak with their surgeon or GP to work out an exercise plan that suits their condition and the type of operation they will undergo.

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Regional Surgical Advisor for the RCSEd and Member of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Mr Jon Dearing is leading the campaign which comprises a variety of support materials including video content and an informational leaflet. He says: “A simple 30 minutes of physical activity per day in the lead up to surgery not only can significantly reduce avoidable complications and mortality, but in some instances can even improve the chances of ‘borderline’ or unsuitable surgical candidates.

“We’re not talking necessarily about donning Lycra and getting sweaty at a gym – just straightforward measures such as walking or cycling instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the lift and parking further away from the shops.  Simple steps like this can improve surgical outcomes, aid the recovery process and even enhance the patient’s own psychological wellbeing as they get better faster.  Most waiting times for surgery are around 12 weeks – this is plenty of time to work on increasing the likelihood of a successful operation.”

For further information, to watch an interview with Jon Dearing and download the patient information leaflet click here.