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Original Research

Physiotherapy management of patients undergoing thoracotomy procedure: A survey of current practice in Gauteng

Liezel Schwellnus, Ronel Roos, Vaneshveri Naidoo

South African Journal of Physiotherapy; Vol 73, No 1 (2017), 6 pages. doi: 10.4102/sajp.v73i1.344

Submitted: 22 July 2016
Published:  28 August 2017


Background: Physiotherapy is included in the management of patients undergoing thoracic surgery. The aim of this study was to describe physiotherapy practice in the management of patients who undergo an open thoracotomy.
Methods: A cross-sectional study using convenience sampling was undertaken. An electronic self-administered questionnaire was distributed via SurveyMonkey to 1389 physiotherapists registered with the South African Society of Physiotherapy in Gauteng. The data collection period was August and September 2014 and data were analysed descriptively.
Results: A total of 323 physiotherapists (23.3%) responded to the survey and 141 (10.2%) indicated that they treated patients with open thoracotomies. Preoperative treatment was done by 65 (41.6%) and consisted of teaching supported coughing (92.3%; n = 60), sustained maximal inspiration (70.8%; n = 46) and the active cycle of breathing technique (69.2%; n = 45). One hundred and sixteen (82.3%) respondents treated patients during their hospital stay. Deep breathing exercises (97.6%; n = 83), coughing (95.3%; n = 81), early mobilisation (95.3%; n = 81), upper limb mobility exercises (91.8%; n = 78), chest wall vibrations (88.2%; n = 75) and trunk mobility exercises (85.9%; n = 73) were done frequently. Pain management modalities were less common, for example transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (12.9%; n = 11). Post hospital physiotherapy management was uncommon (32.6%; n = 46).
Conclusion: Physiotherapy related to early mobilisation in hospital is in line with evidence-based practice, but further education is needed regarding the need for physiotherapy post hospital discharge and pain management.

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Author affiliations

Liezel Schwellnus, Physiotherapy Department, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Ronel Roos, Physiotherapy Department, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Vaneshveri Naidoo, Physiotherapy Department, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


Thoracotomy; physiotherapy; pain


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ISSN: 0379-6175 (print) | ISSN: 2410-8219 (online)

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