Cardiac Rehab: Go, Go, Go
Cardiac Rehab Patients Have Better Survival Odds the More They Go
Dec. 21, 2009 -- One of the most underused treatments for heart patients may also be one
of the most effective, new research suggests.
The longer patients in the study participated in cardiac rehabilitation
programs following heart-related hospitalizations, the better they fared.
The goal of cardiac rehabilitation is to slow or even reverse the
progression of cardiovascular disease by educating patients about their disease
and having them follow a medically supervised exercise
Sessions are typically held two or three times a week for several months
after a heart-related hospital discharge, but only about 10% to 20% of patients
who could benefit from the programs actually attend them, rehab specialist
David Prince, MD, of Montefiore Medical Center tells WebMD.
"Many eligible patients are never referred for cardiac rehab and access is
also an issue," Prince says.
Cardiac Rehab: More Is Better
Medicare recipients are
entitled to 36 cardiac rehab sessions following hospitalization for heart
attacks, bypass surgery, or many other heart-related events, yet most
eligible patients end up attending far fewer sessions or none at all.
In an effort to determine if more is better when it comes to cardiac
rehabilitation, researchers analyzed data from 5% of the nation's Medicare
beneficiaries, including more than 30,000 heart patients who had participated
in at least one cardiac rehabilitation session between 2000 and 2005.
About half the patients attended 24 sessions or fewer, biostatistician and
study researcher Bradley G. Hammill, MS, tells WebMD.
Over roughly four years of follow-up, patients who attended all 36
reimbursed sessions were:
- 47% less likely to die and 31% less likely to have a heart attack as
patients who attended just one.
- 22% less likely to die and 23% less likely to have a heart attack than
patients who attended 12 sessions.
- 14% less likely to die and a 12% less likely to have a heart attack than
patients who attended 24 sessions.
The study will appear in the upcoming issue of the American Heart
Association journal Circulation.
"Our findings indicate that more cardiac rehabilitation is better in almost
every situation," Hammill says. "It may be that people who finish 36 sessions
are already healthier or more diligent about their health. Or it may be that
the programs really do change behaviors and lower risk."
Daisy McFadden's Story
99-year-old Daisy McFadden has been attending Montefiore Medical Center's
Cardiac Recovery Program for 11 years, ever since she had triple bypass surgery
at the age of 88.
Three times a week, McFadden works out at the center, following an exercise
program developed and supervised by the center's medical team.
She monitors her own pulse and heart rate while she performs both aerobic
and weight-bearing exercises on seven different machines, including a treadmill
and rowing machine.