Cardiac Rehab Dramatically Increases Survival Post Surgery

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Post-surgical cardiac rehab may just save your life, study says.

According to researchers from the Mayo Clinic who conducted a 14 year study on the effects of post-surgical cardiac rehab on survival rates, participation in follow up programs post-surgery significnatly increases ones chance of survival.

The study, published in the Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, included data from over 2,400 patients from Rochester, Minn. who underwent one of several types of cardiac surgical procedures collectively known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) between 1994 to 2008.

A PCI, also known as angioplasty, is a surgical procedure to widen blood vessels around the heart that have become blocked with plaque deposits over time, says cardiology experts from Mt. Sinai Heart Institute in Florida. In this cardiac surgery, a long slender balloon tipped catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin or arm, and thread all the way up to the blocked artery. Once the site is reached, the balloon is inflated, compressing the plaque back up against the walls of the arteries and widening the vessel.

According to the study analysis, forty-percent of the study participants attended at least one cardiac rehab session and this group was found to have a significant reduction in death from all causes.

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"Our findings show that patients who participate in cardiac rehab following PCI have better long-term survival — about 50 percent better — than those who don't participate in cardiac rehab," said Randal Thomas, M.D., M.S., lead author of the study and director of the Mayo Clinic's Cardiovascular Health Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Cardiac Rehab Recommended by AHA

According to the National Institute of Health, cardiac rehab programs are a medically supervised program that include exercise training, education, counseling and stress reduction to help improve the health well being of those who have suffered from heart conditions. The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association both formally recommend cardiac rehab for the 600,000 patients who undergo PCI procedures each year in the US.

"Cardiac rehab programs are effective at improving recovery, quality of life and long-term survival because they help deliver the lifestyle and medication therapies that have been shown to slow or even reverse the process of heart disease," Thomas said.

It should be noted that the study does have some weakness including its observational design and lack of diversity among patient populations (participants were predominately Caucasian). However, Thomas points out, even if the study's results were overestimated and the true impact was only a 20 to 30 percent increase in survival rate – this would still have a significant impact on survival outcomes of cardiac surgery PCI patients.

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