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Ann Surg. 2000 Jul;232(1):51-7.

A clinical pathway to accelerate recovery after colonic resection.

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  • 1Department of Surgical Gastroenterology and Anesthesiology, Hvidovre University Hospital, Denmark.



To investigate the feasibility of a 48-hour postoperative stay program after colonic resection.


Postoperative hospital stay after colonic resection is usually 6 to 12 days, with a complication rate of 10% to 20%. Limiting factors for early recovery include stress-induced organ dysfunction, paralytic ileus, pain, and fatigue. It has been hypothesized that an accelerated multimodal rehabilitation program with optimal pain relief, stress reduction with regional anesthesia, early enteral nutrition, and early mobilization may enhance recovery and reduce the complication rate.


Sixty consecutive patients undergoing elective colonic resection were prospectively studied using a well-defined postoperative care program including continuous thoracic epidural analgesia and enforced early mobilization and enteral nutrition, and a planned 48-hour postoperative hospital stay. Postoperative follow-up was scheduled at 8 and 30 days.


Median age was 74 years, with 20 patients in ASA group III-IV. Normal gastrointestinal function (defecation) occurred within 48 hours in 57 patients, and the median hospital stay was 2 days, with 32 patients staying 2 days after surgery. There were no cardiopulmonary complications. The readmission rate was 15%, including two patients with anastomotic dehiscence (one treated conservatively, one with colostomy); other readmissions required only short-term observation.


A multimodal rehabilitation program may significantly reduce the postoperative hospital stay in high-risk patients undergoing colonic resection. Such a program may also reduce postoperative ileus and cardiopulmonary complications. These results may have important implications for the care of patients after colonic surgery and in the future assessment of open versus laparoscopic colonic resection.

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