Recovering from a heart condition like angina doesn’t stop once you leave hospital.
Having an angioplasty should be only part of your treatment for a blocked artery. New research, carried out using information from a Mayo Clinic registry of angioplasty patients, found that taking part in structured rehabilitation sessions made almost 50 per cent difference to their chances of long-term survival.
The research, which is published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at the data for almost 2,400 patients who had a first, successful coronary angioplasty (also known as percutaneous coronary intervention, (PCI)) in Minnesota between 1994 and 2008.
When the patients were followed up, the researchers found that 40 percent of them had attended at least one session of cardiac rehabilitation, and as a group went to an average of 13.5 sessions. “Our findings show that patients who participate in cardiac rehabilitation following PCI have better long-term survival – about 50 percent better – than those who don’t participate in cardiac rehabilitation” said Randal Thomas, MD, MS, lead author of the study and director of the Mayo Clinic’s Cardiovascular Health Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA.
The researchers noted a difference in the death rates, starting from one year of the follow-up programme. In the 14-year analysis, the researchers found a 46 percent relative reduction in death from all causes in those patients who took part in cardiac rehabilitation after their angioplasty.
“Cardiac rehabilitation programs are effective at improving recovery, quality of life and long-term survival because they help deliver the lifestyle and medication therapies that have been shown to slow or even reverse the process of heart disease,” said Randal Thomas.
Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said “Cardiac rehabilitation can offer huge benefits to heart patients and a tailored programme of information, education, exercise, lifestyle advice and help with medication and psychological issues can help put people firmly back in control of their life.
“It saves lives too. Previous research shows the number of people who die from heart problems after their cardiac treatment is reduced by a quarter following rehabilitation.”
“In the UK we’re making headway towards making sure every eligible patient has access to cardiac rehab. There is still room for improvement though, at the moment only around 40 per cent of heart patients enjoy the clear benefits of rehabilitation.”
Angioplasty is a procedure that widens arteries that have become hardened, narrowed or blocked, and aren’t able to supply enough blood to the heart. A surgeon feeds a catheter with a balloon at the tip through a small cut in your groin or wrist to the narrowed artery. Once in place the balloon is inflated, opening up the blood vessel. You may have a stent – a short, metal tube – inserted, to stop the vessel walls narrowing again. Over 61,000 angioplasties are carried out in England each year, most in people aged 65 or over.
If you have been in hospital with heart problems you should be invited to take part in a cardiac rehabilitation programme. Phase three of the programme is usually an eight-week hospital outpatients rehabilitation course. This is followed by a Phase four, three-month course, usually in your local
“We have an ongoing training programme, gradually increasing levels and duration of exercise,” says Christian O’Hare, cardiac rehabilitation therapist at Tickers Cardiac Rehabilitation Training in Essex. “Our aim is to get everyone back to the point where they can manage daily activities. We start with a warm-up, then do 30 minutes of lower and upper body exercise, core exercises and balance exercises, followed by a cool-down session, with stretches and tai chi. We work to everyone’s individual goals, whether it’s getting back to work or doing the gardening.”