Background: Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) has favourable effects on cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. Therefore, it might reasonable to expect that incomplete CR participation will result in suboptimal patient outcomes. Methods: We studied the 914 post-acute coronary syndrome patients who participated in the OPTImal CArdiac REhabilitation (OPTICARE) trial. They all started a ‘standard’ CR programme, with physical exercises (group sessions) twice a week for 12 weeks. Incomplete CR was defined as participation in <75% of the scheduled exercise sessions. Patients were followed-up for 2.7 years, and the incidence of cardiac events was recorded. Major adverse cardiac events (MACE) included all-cause mortality, non-fatal myocardial infarction and coronary revascularisation. Results: A total of 142 (16%) patients had incomplete CR. They had a higher incidence of MACE than their counterparts who completed CR (11.3% versus 3.8%, adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 2.86 and 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.47–5.26). Furthermore, the incidence of any cardiac event, including MACE and coronary revascularisation, was higher (20.4% versus 11.0%, aHR 1.54; 95% CI 0.98–2.44). Patients with incomplete CR were more often persistent smokers than those who completed CR (31.7% versus 11.5%), but clinical characteristics were similar otherwise. Conclusion: Post-ACS patients who did not complete a ‘standard’ 12-week CR programme had a higher incidence of adverse cardiac events during long-term follow-up than those who completed the programme. Since CR is proven beneficial, further research is needed to understand the reasons why patients terminate prematurely.

Acute coronary syndrome, Cardiac rehabilitation, Lifestyle,
Netherlands Heart Journal
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

Sunamura, M, Ter Hoeve, N, van den Berg-Emons, H.J.G, Boersma, H, Geleijnse, M.L, & van Domburg, R.T. (2020). Patients who do not complete cardiac rehabilitation have an increased risk of cardiovascular events during long-term follow-up. Netherlands Heart Journal. doi:10.1007/s12471-020-01413-1