Biking for Bowel Surgery

Patients in Forth Valley due to undergo bowel surgery are now being given the opportunity to pedal their way to a speedier recovery by using an e-Bike prior to their operation. The move is part of the National Enhanced Recovery Initiative and the pilot project is being evaluated by the University of Edinburgh.

Ten e-Bikes are currently available and one patient has already begun cycling along local canal paths. NHS Forth Valley Health Promotion Officer Aileen Schofield helped secure the bikes through Forth Environment Link which then led to Edinburgh University’s Sport Department showing interest in an academic evaluation of the programme. This is being conducted in partnership with the NHS Forth Valley’s Research and Development Department.

Aileen Schofield explained: “We are very much focused on physical activity as part of the patient’s care and treatment process. In fact one of the post-surgery wards for bowel cancer patients now has what is known as an exercise alley where they are encouraged to take part in a series of simple stretches throughout the day.

“It’s early days but it will be good to know how much using e-Bikes helps with the recovery programme. We are all very much excited about this new pilot project and what we can learn from it as this will help inform our next steps.”

The use of the e-Bikes is being offered to a specific group of patients in addition to a pre-operative assessment which looks at people’s current health and what they can do to improve it prior to surgery.

The Enhanced Recovery Programme would also normally include a special preparation ‘boot camp’ which gives patients the chance to meet with other patients and discuss with staff what will happen before, during and after their operation. These group sessions are designed to ensure patients are as prepared and knowledgeable as possible, are actively involved in their own care and feel empowered to ask questions at any point in their treatment. Unfortunately due to COVID-19 the group has been suspended and replaced with an individual information consultation provided by the colorectal nurses, supported with written information.

The results of the Programme are particularly encouraging for patients undergoing keyhole surgery for conditions such as bowel cancer, inflammatory bowel conditions (such as Crohn’s and Colitis) and diverticular disease.

Gary Hill, one of the first local patients to take part in the new e-Bike scheme, said: “Being diagnosed with bowel cancer and cancer in the lungs came as a shock just before my 50th birthday. However Linnet, my cancer nurse, helped me get the new electric bike which has boosted my confidence and helped improve my fitness for the journey ahead.

“The bike has been amazing and helped me go to places which otherwise it would have not been possible for me to reach. When I’m going uphill the bike takes over and gives me the boost I need. This bike has helped me mentally and physically so much that I know I will overcome the cancer and enjoy the rest of my life.”

Linnet McGeever, NHS Forth Valley’s Lead Nurse for Colorectal Cancer and Project Manager for the enhanced recovery initiative, said: “The first 24 hrs after major surgery is critical and in NHS Forth Valley we have introduced a number of important steps to support this recovery. Leading on from these changes we know that people who are more active prior to their surgery and immediately after have a reduced risk of many potential surgical complications. The use of the e-Bikes is one method of encouraging an increase in exercise which we will be investigating, however there are also other methods for those who may not find this idea appealing.

“Not only will be encouraging patients to use the e-Bikes before surgery but we will also be urging them to get back into the saddle four weeks after their operation to improve their stamina and hopefully aid their longer term recovery.”