Studies show cardiac rehab works, but is underutilized by patients

In a paper titled Cardiac rehabilitation Attendance and Outcomes in Coronary artery disease patients released this month in the journal Circulation, researchers from the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta found that coronary artery disease patients who complete cardiac rehabilitation have better chances of survival and decreased hospitalization rates.

Using patient data from both the Cardiac Wellness Institute of Calgary and the APPROACH database, the study looked at the rates of attendance after patients were referred and examined the relationship between rehab completion and mortality outcomes.

“There was more than 40 percent reduction in mortality, 25 percent in hospitalization of any type and 30 percent reduction in cardiac hospitalizations, ” says one of the study’s  authors* Dr. Billie-Jean Martin, adding that these are relative reductions to baseline risks. “If you finish the program, that’s the most beneficial.”

Cardiac rehabilitation, in general, is a comprehensive program that can include exercise, diet modifications, behavioural therapy and counselling and medication therapies. But Dr. Sandeep Aggarwal, a study co-author, points out that previous studies show only 50 percent of patients attended cardiac rehab once referred. Reasons for this can range from transportation accessibility for the elderly, work commitments and socio-economic factors that act as deterrents.

“Sometimes people don’t understand what they’ll get out of cardiac rehabilitation; they walk into it not knowing,” he says. “Having the patient understand why it works improves their success, reduces their risk, makes them feel stronger and feel better.”

Calling on the need to further explore why some patients don’t make it past their referrals, the study concludes that there is a need to test out interventions to improve attendance at cardiac rehab. This includes providing additional resources and information packages to cardiac patients, reducing those barriers to their attendance and promoting physician support for cardiac rehabilitation programs.

*Billie-Jean Martin, Trina Hauer, Ross Arena, Leslie D. Austford, P. Diane Galbraith, Adriane M. Lewin, Merril Knutdson, William A. Ghali, James. A. Stone, Sandeep Aggarwal. Cardiac rehabilitation attendance and outcomes in coronary artery disease patients. Circulation. 2012;126:677-687.


One thought on “Studies show cardiac rehab works, but is underutilized by patients

  1. It is good but was never shown to me ie; when I left the hospital [after getting my stent 2010 ][ I left in a bit of a hurry to catch the plane but should have been told to stay another day so I understood everything they gave me and what actually happened to me ] . I did everything by myself [was already some what involved with this program with my Dad already. My new doctor may have known that as the nurse there keeps in touch with him and I gave her the info from Calgary? I think I should have been intoduced to programs like, and heart rehab at the gym for instance so I understood what to eat and keep track of it a little better then just a class? What they give you when you leave the hospital is good but hard to apply properly.

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