The physiotherapy management of patients undergoing thoracic surgery: a survey of current practice in Australia and New Zealand

Reeve J, Denehy L, Stiller K

Physiotherapy is considered an essential component of the management of patients after thoracotomy, yet the type of interventions utilised, and evidence for their efficacy has not been established. The aim of this study was to ascertain the current physiotherapy management of patients undergoing thoracotomy.

Postal questionnaires were distributed to senior physiotherapists in all thoracic surgical units throughout Australia and New Zealand.

The majority of respondents indicated that all patients were seen by physiotherapists after surgery, with 63% performing prophylactic physiotherapy interventions. Respondents reported that physiotherapy treatment was usually commenced on day one post operatively with the most commonly used interventions being deep breathing exercises, the active cycle of breathing technique, cough, forced expiration techniques and sustained maximal inspirations. The majority of respondents reported that they offered no post-operative pulmonary rehabilitation or outpatient follow up.

Most patients receive physiotherapy assessment and/or treatment in the intermediate post-operative period only. Further studies are required to guide physiotherapists in determining the efficacy of their practices for patients undergoing thoracotomy.

Physiotherapy Research International, 2007, 12 (2): 59-71

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