A team of researchers from the [removed]Mayo Clinic[/removed], Atlanta, have found that cardiac rehabilitation is associated with significantly reduced mortality rates for patients who have had stents placed to treat blockages in their coronary arteries. Researchers found that patients who had coronary angioplasty (stent placement, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention) and afterwards participated in a cardiac rehabilitation program, had a 45 to 47% decrease in mortality compared to those who did not participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program.

"Patients need to know that once they’ve had a coronary artery stent placed, they are not cured," said Randal Thomas, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, in a statement. "Participation in a cardiac rehabilitation program will improve their health outcomes and quality of life."

The study is one of very few that has looked at mortality rates after coronary angioplasty, said Mayo. "No other studies have been able to include the clinical details we have included," said Thomas. The research team examined the records from a special database of 2,351 Mayo Clinic patients who underwent coronary angioplasty between 1994 and 2008. The overall participation rate in cardiac rehabilitation was 40%. Individual patients were followed for an average of 6 years.

In cardiac rehabilitation programs, patients exercise rigorously and get help in controlling risk factors. This leads to health benefits that are evident within the first year, and grow even larger over the long term, Thomas said.

Although cardiac rehabilitation programs are beneficial, Thomas said only 20% of all eligible cardiac patients nationally and 60% of Mayo patients participate. Several factors produce barriers to participation.

"Cardiac rehabilitation wasn’t covered by insurance for patients undergoing angioplasty therapy until 2006," Thomas said. "Many patients and providers don’t know that it’s covered now. Also, some patients live far away from a cardiac rehabilitation facility. But what’s most troubling is that physicians often fail to emphasize the need for cardiac rehabilitation with their patients."

"Cardiac rehabilitation is like a life raft to carry them (heart procedure patients) through the turbulent white water of cardiac trouble," Thomas said. "It’s very important that they participate in such a program."

[Source: [removed]Mayo Clinic[/removed]]