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Aust J Physiother. 2003;49(3):165-73.

Does removal of deep breathing exercises from a physiotherapy program including pre-operative education and early mobilisation after cardiac surgery alter patient outcomes?

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  • 1Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


The aim of this study was to establish whether removal of breathing exercises from a regimen including early mobilisation changes the incidence of post-operative pulmonary complications for patients after cardiac surgery. Two hundred and thirty patients undergoing open heart surgery at Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne, were enrolled in this randomised controlled trial. All patients received physiotherapy treatment pre-operatively and post-operatively for three days. Patients were mobilised as soon as possible after surgery. Breathing group (control) patients performed a set routine of deep breathing exercises at each physiotherapy visit while those in the intervention group did not perform this routine. Other than the breathing exercises, patient management was similar between groups in terms of assessment, positioning and mobility. The incidence of postoperative pulmonary complications, post-operative length of stay, oxyhaemoglobin saturation and pulmonary function were measured pre-operatively and post-operatively. Intention-to-treat analysis was performed for post-operative pulmonary complications and length of stay. Other data were analysed using t-tests, chi square and repeated measures analysis of variance. There were no significant differences between the groups in the primary dependent variables. It is concluded that removal of breathing exercises from the routine physiotherapy management of open heart surgery patients does not significantly alter patient outcome.

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