An intensive fitness programme for patients facing major pancreatic surgery has been recognised at an international conference.

Patients at Royal Surrey County Hospital are taking part in a demanding four week exercise regime prior to going into the operating theatre, as part of a clinical trial.

As well as the three tailor made fitness sessions per week, supervised by a sports scientist, participants also receive Mediterranean diet-inspired nutritional supplements of olive oil and fish oil. These are known to have positive health benefits by reducing the amount of inflammation in the body, which could be particularly useful after surgery.

The research team want to find out whether the two interventions improve preoperative fitness and what effect this may have on post-operative results for patients.

The study and its initial findings were awarded first place at the prestigious CPX and POETTS European Practicum of Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing Abstract Competition.

The inquiry is being led by Dr Jason George, who picked up the prize at the conference earlier this month.

Jason’s MD is supported by Minimal Access Therapy Training Unit (MATTU).

Pancreatic cancer is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth cells in the pancreas – a large gland that is part of the digestive system.

In the early stages, a tumour on the pancreas does not cause any symptom, which can make it difficult to diagnose.

New cases are normally diagnosed in people aged 75 or over and the most common symptoms are pain or discomfort, jaundice and weight loss.

“Surgery involving the pancreas is a major operation,” said Dr George.

“As with all surgery, there are risks and patients need to be fit enough to have it.

“The fitter you are, the more likely you are to avoid complications and leave hospital earlier.

“Previous research, investigating exercise before surgery, has shown that pre-operative fitness and post-operative recovery can be improved by exercise training.

“So far there have been no published studies of this kind involving patients undergoing pancreatic surgery.”

A 78-year-old man, who has already taken part in the clinical trial, said: “I am considered to have a good level of fitness.

“The four week-long trial offered an opportunity to increase my level of fitness and at the end of the trial I was assured my fitness showed a significant increase over that previous to the trial, which agreed with my findings.

“Following my operation and two weeks in hospital care I have spent a further six weeks recovering at home. The amount of energy demanded by the body to recover from the operation is immense compared to normal demands.

“Without my enhanced condition, obtained prior to the operation from the trial, I have no doubt that my recovery would be taking much longer.”

Another patient said: “In my opinion the month’s trial gave me the strength and knowledge to face the major surgery that lay ahead.”

©2019 Royal Surrey County Hospital

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