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Evidence-Based Surgical Care and the Evolution of Fast-Track Surgery

Kehlet, Henrik MD, PhD*; Wilmore, Douglas W. MD†

Annals of Surgery:
doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e31817f2c1a

Background: Optimization of postoperative outcome requires the application of evidence-based principles of care carefully integrated into a multimodal rehabilitation program.

Objective: To assess, synthesize, and discuss implementation of “fast-track” recovery programs.

Data Sources: Medline MBASE (January 1966–May 2007) and the Cochrane library (January 1966–May 2007) were searched using the following keywords: fast-track, enhanced recovery, accelerated rehabilitation, and multimodal and perioperative care. In addition, the synthesis on the many specific interventions and organizational and implementation issues were based on data published within the past 5 years from major anesthesiological and surgical journals, using systematic reviews where appropriate instead of multiple references of original work.

Data Synthesis: Based on an increasing amount of multinational, multicenter cohort studies, randomized studies, and meta-analyses, the concept of the “fast-track methodology” has uniformly provided a major enhancement in recovery leading to decreased hospital stay and with an apparent reduction in medical morbidity but unaltered “surgery-specific” morbidity in a variety of procedures. However, despite being based on a combination of evidence-based unimodal principles of care, recent surveys have demonstrated slow adaptation and implementation of the fast-track methodology.

Conclusion: Multimodal evidence-based care within the fast-track methodology significantly enhances postoperative recovery and reduces morbidity, and should therefore be more widely adopted. Further improvement is expected by future integration of minimal invasive surgery, pharmacological stress-reduction, and effective multimodal, nonopioid analgesia.

In Brief

The integration of unimodality evidence-based perioperative care principles into a multimodal “fast-track” rehabilitation program is now well documented to accelerate postoperative recovery and decrease hospital stay. Therefore, this multidisciplinary effort should be more widely adopted.

Author Information

From the *Section of Surgical Pathophysiology 4074, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark; and †Laboratories for Surgical Metabolism and Nutrition, Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

The authors have no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Dr. Henrik Kehlet, MD, PhD, Section of Surgical Pathophysiology 4074, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark. E-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.