Early Ambulation is Associated with Improved Outcomes Following Colorectal Surgery

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The American surgeon




colorectal; enhanced recovery after surgery; general surgery


BACKGROUND: The Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) society lists early mobilization as one of their recommendations for improving patient outcomes following colorectal surgery. The level of supporting evidence, however, is relatively weak, and furthermore, the ERAS guidelines do not clearly define "early" mobilization. In this study, we define mobilization in terms of time to first ambulation after surgery and develop an outcome-based cutoff for early mobilization. METHODS: This is a retrospective cohort study comprised of 291 patients who underwent colorectal operations at a large, academic medical center from June to December 2019. Three cutoffs (12 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours) were used to divide patients into early and late ambulation groups for each cutoff, and statistical analysis was performed to determine differences in postoperative outcomes between the corresponding groups. RESULTS: Multivariate analysis showed no difference between the early and late ambulation groups for the 12-hour and 48-hour cutoffs; however, ambulation before 24 hours was associated with a decreased rate of severe complications as well as fewer adverse events overall. Patients who ambulated within 24 hours had a 4.1% rate of severe complications and a 22.1% rate of experiencing some adverse event (complication, return to the emergency department, and/or readmission). In comparison, 11.8% of patients who ambulated later experienced a severe complication ( = 0.026), while 36.1% of patients experienced some adverse event ( = 0.011). CONCLUSIONS: Ambulation within 24 hours after colorectal surgery is associated with improved postoperative outcomes, particularly a decreased rate of severe complications.


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