The more the Fitbit steps, the lesser the chance of readmission after cancer surgery, study finds. Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Fitbit

When people buy a Fitbit, they do it in the hope that the wearable device would bring them health benefits. A new study found there could be an unforeseen benefit with using the device for metastatic peritoneal cancer patients.

To be more precise, the study found that higher the number of physical activities that a patient performs post-surgery, lesser the risk of a readmission 30 and 60 day after the surgery.

According to the study, which appeared in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, the patients’ activity levels were monitored using Fitbit and it was found that higher Fitbit steps forecasted better patient outcomes.

For the study, 71 patients with metastatic peritoneal cancer who were scheduled for surgical resection participated. Fitbits were placed on patients' wrists once they were transferred from the intensive care unit after surgery and they wore the device for the entire duration of their inpatient stay in the hospital.

The average number of steps that each participant took in a day was calculated for the total inpatient recovery period. After statistically adjusting for the patient's body mass index, age, duration of postoperative stay and comorbidity, the researchers found that higher mean steps per day predicted lower 30- and 60-day readmission risk.

The more the Fitbit steps, the lesser the chance of readmission after cancer surgery, study finds. Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Fitbit

A cancer that has spread from where it originated in the body (known as the primary site) to other parts is called metastatic cancer. Once the cancer cells part from a tumor, they could move elsewhere in the body via the blood stream or the lymph system. The lymph system is quite similar to the blood vessels. Only, the lymph vessels carry immune system cells and a clear fluid.

If the cancer cells are carried through the lymph system, either of two things could happen: 1) They may reach nearby lymph nodes — essentially, small clusters of immune cells or 2) They may spread to other organs in the body. Usually, cancer cells that part from the main tumor are carried by the bloodstream.

Once these cells get in the blood, they could move to just about anywhere in the body. Many of the cells usually die. But some of them could settle in a different part of the body, begin to grow and turn tumorous there. In the post-surgery phase for metastatic tumor patients, exercise is a major element in the path to recovery. However, in clinical settings, postoperative exercise is hardly monitored in a systematic manner. Neither is it taken into account to forecast crucial clinical outcomes like readmission.

In the case of complex cancer surgeries, readmission is quite common. Among patients whose abdominal cancer gets removed by surgery, 15 to 30 percent get readmitted within just 30 days of being discharged from the hospital. Such readmissions may be preventable.

Preventable readmissions are linked to multiple negative factors — like early mortality, increased stress among patients and their family, and not to mention, even higher health care costs.

According to the new study, the number of readmissions could be reduced with the aid of Fitbit.

However, apart from readmissions, how many other clinically crucial outcomes could be predicted using data from devices like Fitbits remains unclear.