TR-led study reveals who benefits most from Cardiac Rehab

Toronto Rehab researchers have discovered a new approach for determining which patient populations benefit most from cardiac rehabilitation.

The study, led by our Toronto Rehab Chair in Cardiac Rehabilitation, Dr. David Alter, and PhD candidate, Avi Biswas, revealed that an individual’s baseline risk at the time they enter cardiac rehab – for example, age, sex, socioeconomic status and clinical risk factors  – had the strongest impact on the success of the program.

The study also examined the behavioural tendencies of the population, including their risk of dropping out of the program – which had a smaller, but still significant impact on the effectiveness of cardiac rehab.

"Across Canada, we operate on this 'one size fits all approach' to cardiac rehab – but this study suggests that we may have it wrong. We need to tailor cardiac rehab services to the behaviours and profiles of the patient populations we serve to have a stronger impact on the number of lives saved," says Dr. Alter.

This study looked at the baseline profiles and program attendance of approximately 16,000 cardiac rehab patients at Toronto Rehab's Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation Program at Rumsey Centre from 1995-2011. Patients were admitted to the program a minimum of four to eight weeks after a cardiovascular event or surgical intervention, and expected to attend a weekly exercise session, one-on-one counseling, education and peer-to-peer support once per week for six months.

The research team is looking into new and innovative ways of re-thinking the way cardiac rehab is delivered in an effort to reach a larger number of patients in the population; for example, the use of financial and rewards-based incentive programs through partnerships to keep people motivated and focused on rehab, exploring music strategies to improve exercise adherence, and looking beyond hospital walls to deliver programming into the community and at home.

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In Photo (l-r): Avi Biswas and Dr. David Alter at Toronto Rehab’s Rumsey Centre