BACKGROUND: Optimising patients pre-operatively reduces the chance of complications. This may be achieved by preconditioning. Thermal preconditioning refers to the supraphysiological heating of organisms or specific organs prior to an environmental insult. This review explores the current application and efficacy of thermal preconditioning for surgery.
METHODS: A comprehensive search of Medline (via PubMed), Embase and the Cochrane library was performed. Only articles evaluating the use of supraphysiological heating prior to a surgical intervention were included. Qualitative syntheses of data were undertaken due to the heterogeneity of the studies. The quality of each article was appraised using risk of bias tools (Cochrane and SYRCLE).
RESULTS: The primary literature search returned 3175 articles. After screening and reviewing reference lists, 28 papers met the inclusion criteria. The majority of studies were performed in animals, with only three clinical trials. Although there was broad coverage of different surgical techniques, flap transfer was the most commonly performed procedure. Most studies demonstrated a beneficial effect of thermal preconditioning, ranging from increased joint mobility to improved flap or organ transplant survival rates. The quality of evidence was variable, with experimental animal studies limited by a lack of methodological detail.
CONCLUSIONS: Thermal preconditioning for surgery has been primarily investigated using animal models. A beneficial effect has been demonstrated in most cases, across specialties ranging from plastic to general surgery. Future studies should aim to assess the clinical significance through large multicentre randomised controlled trials.
Keywords: Heat shock proteins Surgery Surgical complications Surgical outcomes Thermal preconditioning