A randomized, controlled, prehabilitation intervention to maximize early recovery (PRIMER) in liver transplantation.

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Frailty and impaired functional status are associated with adverse outcomes on the liver transplant (LT) waitlist and after transplantation. Prehabilitation prior to LT has rarely been tested. We conducted a 2-arm patient-randomized pilot trial to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of a 14-week behavioral intervention to promote physical activity prior to LT. Thirty patients were randomized 2:1 to intervention (n = 20) versus control (n = 10). The intervention arm received financial incentives and text-based reminders linked to wearable fitness trackers. Daily step goals were increased by 15% in 2-week intervals. Weekly check-ins with study staff assessed barriers to physical activity. The primary outcomes were feasibility and acceptability. Secondary outcomes included mean end-of-study step counts, short physical performance battery, grip strength, and body composition by phase angle. We fit regression models for secondary outcomes with the arm as the exposure adjusting for baseline performance. The mean age was 61, 47% were female, and the median Model for End-stage Liver Disease sodium (MELD-Na) was 13. One-third were frail or prefrail by the liver frailty index, 40% had impaired mobility by short physical performance battery, nearly 40% had sarcopenia by bioimpedance phase angle, 23% had prior falls, and 53% had diabetes. Study retention was 27/30 (90%; 2 unenrolled from intervention, 1 lost to follow-up in control arm). Self-reported adherence to exercise during weekly check-ins was about 50%; the most common barriers were fatigue, weather, and liver-related symptoms. End-of-study step counts were nearly 1000 steps higher for intervention versus control: adjusted difference 997, 95% CI, 147-1847; p = 0.02. On average, the intervention group achieved daily step targets 51% of the time. A home-based intervention with financial incentives and text-based nudges was feasible, highly accepted, and increased daily steps in LT candidates with functional impairment and malnutrition.




Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Medicine

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