Cardiac Rehabilitation Important to Survival Following Heart Attack

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You’ve had a heart attack. What happens upon discharge from the hospital? Turns out one of the most important things to happen should be a referral to a cardiac rehabilitation program.

Bradley G. Hammill, MS and colleagues have published a new study in the December 22 issue of Circulation which shows survival rates are better for patients who stick with their rehabilitation program after discharge.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs not only involve a medically supervised exercise program, but also educate patients about their disease. Sessions are typically held two or three times a week for several months after a heart-related hospital discharge. Medicare will pay for 36 cardiac rehabilitation sessions, but often patients fail to go or drop out early.

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Using a national 5% sample of Medicare beneficiaries, the study identified 30,161 elderly patients who attended at least 1 cardiac rehabilitation session between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2005. The researchers then used a Cox proportional hazards model to estimate the relationship between the number of sessions attended and death and myocardial infarction (MI) at 4 years. Adjustment for demographic characteristics, comorbid conditions, and subsequent hospitalization.

The patients who attended 36 sessions had a 14% lower risk of death and a 12% lower risk of MI than those who attended only 24 sessions. Those who attended 36 sessions had a 22% lower risk of death and a 23% lower risk of MI than those who attended only 12 sessions. Those who attended 36 sessions had a 47% lower risk of death and a 31% lower risk of MI than those who attended only 1 session.

Upon discharge from the hospital following a heart attack, it is very beneficial for elderly people to go to cardiac rehabilitation. To go regularly, and to complete all the sessions.

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Bradley G. Hammill, Lesley H. Curtis, Kevin A. Schulman, and David J. Whellan; “Relationship Between Cardiac Rehabilitation and Long-Term Risks of Death and Myocardial Infarction Among Elderly Medicare Beneficiaries”; Circulation, Dec 2009; doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.876383

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