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.

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Keywords Acute coronary syndrome, Cardiac rehabilitation, Lifestyle
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Journal Netherlands Heart Journal
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