Implementation of prehabilitation in colorectal cancer surgery: qualitative research on how to strengthen facilitators and overcome barriers

Thea C. Heil*, Elisabeth J. M. Driessen, Tanja E. Argillander, Rene J. F. Melis, Huub A. A. M. Maas, Marcel G. M. Olde Rikkert, Johannes H. W. de Wilt, Barbara C. van Munster, Marieke Perry

*Corresponding author for this work

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Purpose Prehabilitation is increasingly offered to patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) undergoing surgery as it could prevent complications and facilitate recovery. However, implementation of such a complex multidisciplinary intervention is challenging. This study aims to explore perspectives of professionals involved in prehabilitation to gain understanding of barriers or facilitators to its implementation and to identify strategies to successful operationalization of prehabilitation. Methods In this qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were performed with healthcare professionals involved in prehabilitation for patients with CRC. Prehabilitation was defined as a preoperative program with the aim of improving physical fitness and nutritional status. Parallel with data collection, open coding was applied to the transcribed interviews. The Ottawa Model of Research Use (OMRU) framework, a comprehensive interdisciplinary model guide to promote implementation of research findings into healthcare practice, was used to categorize obtained codes and structure the barriers and facilitators into relevant themes for change. Results Thirteen interviews were conducted. Important barriers were the conflicting scientific evidence on (cost-)effectiveness of prehabilitation, the current inability to offer a personalized prehabilitation program, the complex logistic organization of the program, and the unawareness of (the importance of) a prehabilitation program among healthcare professionals and patients. Relevant facilitators were availability of program coordinators, availability of physician leadership, and involving skeptical colleagues in the implementation process from the start. Conclusions Important barriers to prehabilitation implementation are mainly related to the intervention being complex, relatively unknown and only evaluated in a research setting. Therefore, physicians' leadership is needed to transform care towards more integration of personalized prehabilitation programs. Implications for cancer survivors By strengthening prehabilitation programs and evidence of their efficacy using these recommendations, it should be possible to enhance both the pre- and postoperative quality of life for colorectal cancer patients during survivorship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7373–7386
Number of pages14
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Early online date25-May-2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Prehabilitation
  • Qualitative research
  • Implementation
  • Complex intervention

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