THE Churchill Hospital is harnessing pedal power to assess the fitness of patients ahead of major surgery, with the hope that it could free up beds.
The new Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test (CPET) will test how fit people are before operations by monitoring them as they cycle on an exercise bike.
They will wear an oxygen mask and electrocardiography leads, which record heart activity, while they cycle on an exercise bike.
Doctors will use the data to see how risky surgery could be and the length and type of treatment needed afterwards.
It could free up intensive care beds by determining whether patients need them and for how long.
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust consultant anaesthetist and clinical leader for pre-assessment, Dr John Griffiths, said: “We are starting to plan ahead with patients, rather than just meet them on the day of surgery.
“Through our assessments we can find that patients do not need an intensive care bed, which can free that bed up for someone else.
“There are only eight intensive care beds at the Churchill.”
The test will measure the build-up of lactic acid, known to cause pins and needles.
The quicker lactic acid builds up, the more likely patients will need an intensive care bed, as it raises concerns over general fitness.
He said: “This is going to put Oxford among the better centres in the country. The key is the consultant anaesthetist being with the patient pre-op.”
Andy Binks, 53, from Witney was one of the first patients to take the test before an operation to rebuild his intestinal wall last December.
He had developed peritonitis, an inflammation of the thin tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen, and was in such intense pain he could not work and found it difficult to leave home.
He said: “It seemed the perfect idea really. Rather than going up (to the Churchill) four or five times I could have it all done in one place at one time by a very competent team.
“It all went very, very well.
“I was at a very low ebb then, it had affected me to the point where I couldn’t work, couldn’t go out, had to use a walking stick.
“It gave me a bit of a boost before an operation, as well as giving the doctors valuable info.
“The psychological side was a boost. It showed I was fit and ready for an operation and Dr Griffiths was happy for the operation to go ahead.”
Mr Binks spent just two days in intensive care and has been back at work full-time for a month.
He returned to the Churchill on Tuesday to retake the tests and see how his fitness and health had improved since surgery.
He said: “I have had no issues. The whole set-up has been totally life-changing.
“Dr Griffiths said I had improved tremendously on the first test and for him and his team it validated the system really. It can work and does work.
“Even when you are feeling well there is still a niggle in your mind but today’s tests showed I am fitter than I was before I went in.”
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