The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate whether Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols for patients undergoing emergency intra-abdominal surgery improve postoperative outcomes as compared to conventional care.
MEDLINE, EMBASE, WoS, CENTRAL, and Pubmed were searched from inception to December 2022. Articles were eligible if they were randomized controlled trials (RCT) or non-randomized studies comparing ERAS protocols to conventional care for patients undergoing emergency intra-abdominal surgery. The outcomes included postoperative length of stay (LOS), postoperative morbidity, prolonged postoperative ileus (PPOI), and readmission. An inverse variance random effects meta-analysis was performed. A risk of bias was assessed with Cochrane tools. Certainty of evidence was assessed with GRADE.
After screening 1018 citations, 20 studies with 1615 patients in ERAS programs and 1933 patients receiving conventional care were included. There was a reduction in postoperative LOS in the ERAS group for patients undergoing upper gastrointestinal (GI) surgery (MD3.35, 95% CI 2.52–4.17, p < 0.00001) and lower GI surgery (MD2.80, 95% CI 2.62–2.99, p < 0.00001). There was a reduction in postoperative morbidity in the ERAS group for patients undergoing upper GI surgery (RR0.56, 95% CI 0.30–1.02, p = 0.06) and lower GI surgery (RR 0.66, 95%CI 0.52–0.85, p = 0.001). In the upper and lower GI subgroup, there were nonsignificant reductions in PPOI in the ERAS groups (RR0.59, 95% CI 0.30–1.17, p = 0.13; RR0.49, 95% CI 0.21–1.14, p = 0.10). There was a nonsignificant increased risk of readmission in the ERAS group (RR1.60, 95% CI 0.57–4.50, p = 0.50).
There is low-to-very-low certainty evidence supporting the use ERAS protocols for patients undergoing emergency intra-abdominal surgery. The currently available data are limited by imprecision.