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Cardiopulmonary exercise testing versus spirometry as predictors of cardiopulmonary complications after colorectal surgery



To determine the predictive value of spirometry and cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) preoperatively in patients scheduled to undergo elective colorectal surgery. We compared the preoperative results with the incidence of postoperative cardiopulmonary complications.


A total of 103 patients were scheduled to undergo preoperative CPET and spirometry; 14 patients did not attend their appointments and another 20 were unable to perform the test. In all, 69 patients (median age 60 years (range 25–85), 35 males) successfully completed cycle ergometry and lung function tests. Forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), percent forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1/forced vital capacity (FVC)) and anaerobic threshold (AT) were measured. Patients were divided postoperatively according to whether cardiopulmonary complications were absent (group A) or present (group B).


Postoperative cardiopulmonary complications developed in 8 of the 69 patients (12 %). Thirty day mortality was 3 %. AT was significantly higher in group A (mean AT = 13.8; SD ± 3.0; range = 8.1–20.8) than in group B (mean = 10.91; SD ± 3.0; Range = 7.9–12), (p = 0.0006). Spirometric pulmonary function tests (FEV1, p = 0.09) and (FEV1/FVC, p = 0.08) showed no intergroup differences. The median hospital length of stay (HLOS) was significantly higher in the group of patients that suffered cardiopulmonary complications (p = 0.0282).


CPET allows the prediction of postoperative cardiopulmonary complications which cannot be anticipated by spirometry. Early detection of high risk patients facilitates the planning of patient specific management strategies which are likely to improve outcome through invasive monitoring and optimisation of cardio-respiratory function.

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Correspondence to I. Nikolopoulos MBBS, MSc, MRCS.

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Nikolopoulos, I., Ellwood, M., George, M. et al. Cardiopulmonary exercise testing versus spirometry as predictors of cardiopulmonary complications after colorectal surgery. Eur Surg 47, 324–330 (2015).

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  • Cardiopulmonary exercise testing
  • Spirometry
  • Enhance recovery programme
  • Cardiopulmonary complications