The ERAS protocol, or enhanced recovery after surgery protocol, is an evidence-based method primarily used to help patients recover more quickly after major surgeries or in treatment plans requiring healthcare experts to perform different surgeries.
Most hospitals (not all, unfortunately) have ERAS programs, and for the most part, it has become a standardized approach to improve patient recovery times and outcomes for most major procedures.
Because of the benefits, enhanced recovery after surgery protocols is a key strategy every patient should know about if facing a condition requiring invasive and extensive surgery. Because of its evidence-based nature and recovery-promoting characteristics, Dr. Omar Rashid and his team discuss the ERAS protocol in more detail in this blog post to hopefully give more information to concerned patients awaiting surgery or going through recovery.
What Is the ERAS Program?
Enhanced operation recovery, sometimes called accelerated or rapid recovery, is a post-treatment approach that aims to ensure that patients are:
- In their healthiest shape possible, even before undergoing surgery/receiving any kind of treatment
- Getting the best possible care during the procedure itself
- Getting the best possible care post-op
The enhanced recovery after surgery protocol takes into account that surgery can be both emotionally and physically strenuous on the patient; that’s why the model focuses on getting the patient back to full health as rapidly as modern medicine enables it.
Research data has pointed out that the faster patients get out of bed, strive to return to their everyday routine, and eat well after surgery, the shorter the overall recovery time will be.
Who Can Benefit From the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery Protocol?
For the most part, rapid operation recovery, or at least some of its main principles, can be applied to literally all cases and types of surgery. Still, there are a few specific procedures and conditions where ERAS programs really shine and enable patients to get back on their feet more rapidly.
The conditions and surgery types where ERAS programs are currently used to their maximum potential are the following:
- Breast surgeries – for procedures like breast removal due to breast cancer
- Gynecological procedures – such as more invasive surgery, like womb removal (hysterectomy)
- Colorectal conditions/surgery – procedures in which parts of the entire bowel are removed (or the back passage) because of malignant or other conditions like bowel cancer
- Urological procedures – such as a prostatectomy or prostate gland removal due to prostate cancer
- Musculoskeletal surgery – procedures like knee replacement or hip replacement
Lastly, there are also clinics and medical centers that offer rapid operation recovery programs following procedures such as chest or heart surgery.
More About the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery Protocol
Patients who need to undergo surgery should ask their healthcare providers whether they should enroll in an ERAS program or whether the hospital offers such approaches in the first place.
And even if the clinic offers perioperative care, patients should still remember that their involvement is also pivotal in recovering faster.
As such, there are a couple of important things that patients should consider before undergoing surgery:
- Every patient undergoing perioperative care should do it well, as their body will require energy to repair itself and heal.
- Patients should also exercise before surgery, as being physically active during this period can boost recovery.
- Adequate relaxation is necessary; patients are encouraged to relax and not obsess over surgery.
- Lastly, patients are also encouraged to cut down (or, most preferably) give up alcohol and tobacco use since that will reduce any involved complications and risks and speed up recovery.
Medical experts will naturally help patients throughout the perioperative care period to get in the best possible shape before undergoing the procedure. They will also strive to identify any potential health condition that may interfere with the surgery and aim to stabilize it.
Additionally, skilled and knowledgeable medical professionals will also ensure that patients clearly understand their treatment options, the involved risks, and the outcomes, so they can make informed decisions about whether they want to proceed with the treatment plan or wish to change it.
At the clinic, the medical team might further advise you about what you can do to improve your recovery. This may include the following:
- Staying active, which means that patients might even walk or be walked to the operating room
- Drinking clear fluids before the surgery (up to two hours)
- Reintroducing at least some physical activity as soon as patients can, following the procedure
- Eating a healthy diet after the surgery
- Tracking the recovery progress in a recovery diary
Furthermore, to help the ERAS program, doctors may recommend using different techniques that can help improve recovery time. These are techniques like minimally invasive surgery, regional or local anesthesia, and minimal nasogastric tube and drain usage.
Apart from that, the protocol also enables patients to take advantage of specific rehabilitation services like physiotherapy. These services will speed up the recovery process and allow the patients to get out of the hospital much more quickly.
Because of this, this operation recovery protocol also helps the patient plan and prepare for their return home.
ERAS Protocol Benefits
There have been many strides on the topic, and the evidence states that the decreased stay length and the implementation of these protocols also reduce morbidity and mortality rates after major surgical procedures. Apart from speeding up recovery, these programs are also more effective and safer than most traditional care options. Also, studies have shown that these recovery protocols may optimize postoperative analgesia. Patients participating in protocols incorporating intrathecal morphine with spinal anesthesia were less reliant on systemic opioids in the postoperative phase.
Another pivotal aspect of these perioperative care programs is that they can speed up the return of specific organ functions and potentially prevent the decline of the same. A corpulent body of evidence demonstrates the prevention of declining pulmonary function and reducing the duration of ileus post-op for patients who have taken part in enhanced recovery programs. Furthermore, improved muscle function, better physical strength, increased lean body mass preservation, and exercise performance have also been well documented when scrutinizing these ERAS protocols.
Compared to traditional recovery management, the ERAS approach may improve the patient’s quality of life in the short- and long-term in the post-surgical period.
Lastly, other factors like reduced daytime sleep requirements, earlier resumption of everyday activities, reduced sick leave days, and reduced fatigue has all been reported by patients who have participated in these programs.
ERAS protocols have well-documented benefits when compared to traditional recovery management. Still, to get the best out of these approaches, patient involvement should also be prioritized. Luckily, in the hands of good experts, patients can’t navigate these changes successfully without much effort.
To learn more about how experts can help you recover as fast as possible, feel free to reach out to our practice and ask about the ERAS protocol.