A postoperative shoulder exercise program improves function and decreases pain following open thoracotomy: a randomised trial

Reeve, J
Stiller, K
Nicol, K
McPherson, KM
Birch, P
Gordon, IR
Denehy, L
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Journal Article
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Australian Physiotherapy Association

QUESTION: Does a postoperative physiotherapy exercise program incorporating shoulder exercises improve shoulder function, pain, range of motion, muscle strength, and health-related quality of life in patients undergoing elective pulmonary resection via open thoracotomy?

DESIGN: Randomised trial with concealed allocation, assessor blinding, and intention-to-treat analysis.

PARTICIPANTS: 76 patients who underwent pulmonary resection via open thoracotomy.

INTERVENTION: All participants received standard medical and nursing care involving a clinical pathway. The experimental group also received physiotherapy interventions that included daily supervised, progressive exercises until discharge and a postoperative exercise booklet on discharge.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Preoperatively and up to 3 months postoperatively pain was measured with a numerical rating scale, shoulder function with the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index, and quality of life with the Short Form-36. Shoulder range of motion and muscle strength were measured in a subgroup.

RESULTS: The experimental group had 1.3 units (95% CI 0.3 to 2.2) less shoulder pain (scored /10) and 2.2 units (95% CI 0.2 to 4.3) less total pain (scored /30) at discharge, and 7.6% (95% CI 1.7 to 13.6) better function at 3 months. The Short Form-36 physical component score was 4.8 points (95% CI -0.3 to 10.0) better for the experimental group than the control group at 3 months. Differences between groups in all range of motion and strength measures were small and statistically non-significant.

CONCLUSION: A physiotherapist-directed postoperative exercise program resulted in significant benefits in pain and shoulder function over usual care for patients following open thoracotomy.

Randomised controlled trial , Physical therapy (specialty) , Thoracotomy , Postoperative complications , Pain , Postoperative pain , Shoulder , Exercise , Muscle sparing thoracotomy , Assisted thorasic surgery , Posterolateral thoracotomy , Standard , Questionnaires , Resection , Strength , Care
Journal of Physiotherapy, vol.56(4), pp.245-252
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© Australian Physiotherapy Association 2010. The definitive version was published in (see Citation). The original publication is available at (see Publisher's Version).