An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By Michael Easterling | October 20, 2016


breakthroughs - Virgina Sun Virginia Sun, Ph.D., R.N., M.S.N.


Something as simple as wearing a physical activity wristband, not unlike a Fitbit, to count steps could also be an invaluable tool in monitoring the functional recovery time of surgery patients, and potentially detecting any post-surgery complications sooner rather than later. This is the conclusion of a pilot study led by a team of City of Hope researchers.

“This wireless technology — which many people already use — has great potential to detect real-time changes in surgical patients’ functional recovery,” says Principal Investigator Virginia Sun, Ph.D., R.N., M.S.N., assistant professor in City of Hope’s Department of Population Sciences.

Data from the device, combined with online patient reported surveys, could potentially help the surgical team identify patients who are at high risk of having complications and poor quality of life, so that health care providers can intervene earlier.”

The research team initially studied 20 cancer patients scheduled for surgery to remove gastrointestinal tumors. They were given the activity tracker to wear on their wrists, which counted their daily steps for three to seven days before the operation, during their hospitalization and for two weeks after they were discharged. The researchers discovered that 82 to 88 percent of the patients in the study wore the device throughout the study period. Participants also completed an online survey documenting their symptoms and quality of life before surgery, at the time they were discharged and for two weeks after. At the end of the study, patients were overall satisfied with the wireless monitoring program.

The team was able to demonstrate that the number of steps was potentially associated with the patient’s risk for developing complications after surgery. Patients who had fewer steps were more likely to be at higher risk for complications after surgery.


Sinziana Dumitra Bio Photo Sinziana Dumitra, M.D.


“Many surgeons rely on the first follow-up phone call and appointment to determine if a patient is functioning as expected or experiencing problems,” says Sinziana Dumitra, M.D., a surgical oncology fellow at City of Hope. Dumitra presented the study abstract at the recent Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons. “With our wireless system, patients could communicate their symptoms and quality-of-life issues to the surgical team while recovering at home. With the physical activity wristband tracker, we have information about the patient’s functional recovery even before their first follow-up appointment. We can then use that information to intervene early if problems arise.”

“We believe ours is one of the first studies to demonstrate the feasibility of combining popular wireless technology with patient-reported symptoms and quality-of-life data before and after cancer surgery,” Sun says. “Going forward, we plan to further study and use the wireless monitoring data to identify patients who are at high risk for complications after surgery, and develop interventions to improve their recovery and quality of life.”

Other members of the City of Hope research team are Yuman Fong, M.D., The Sangiacomo Family Chair in Surgical Oncology, Byrne Lee, M.D., Kurt Melstrom, M.D., Laleh Melstrom, M.D., M.S., Stephen Sentovich, M.D., M.B.A., Gagandeep Singh, M.D., and Yanghee Woo, M.D.

The study was supported by a Cancer Control and Population Sciences Pilot Award from the City of Hope Cancer Center Support Grant funded by the National Cancer Institute.




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