Study: Only half of eligible patients referred for cardiac rehab

While cardiac rehab can be very effective in guarding patients against future problems once they've ended up in the hospital with heart trouble, only 56 percent of such patients are referred for this therapy, according to a new study published in a professional journal.

National guidelines say that hospitalized patients with a qualifying cardiovascular disease event should be referred to outpatient cardiac rehab before they're discharged, but it doesn't happen nearly enough, according to the report, which is published in the online edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

To conduct the research, a team lead by Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at UCLA, looked at data on 72,817 patients from the American Heart Association. The team examined information on patients discharged after a heart attack, angioplasty or bypass surgery between January 2000 and September 2007.

The researchers found that only 56 percent were referred to cardiac rehab, including 53 percent of heart attack patients, 58 percent of angioplasty patients and 74 percent of bypass surgery patients.

One other notable finding was that hospitals were extremely inconsistent in how often they referred for cardiac rehab. Some referred 0 percent of the time, and some referred 100 percent of patients, researchers noted.

To learn more about the study:
- read this HealthDay News piece