AIMS: The 2016 European guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure classified cardiac rehabilitation as a mandatory class I intervention. We aimed to analyse in heart failure patients the impact of an in-hospital cardiac rehabilitation programme on all-cause mortality and readmissions.
METHODS: From the Lombardy healthcare administrative database, we analysed in patients with incident heart failure, from 2005 to 2012, the number of all hospitalisations, cardiac rehabilitation admissions, post-discharge deaths, outpatient drug prescriptions and visits. We divided patients into hospitalised for heart failure in acute care only (group A) versus patients with one or more admission to cardiac rehabilitation for an in-hospital cardiac rehabilitation programme (group B).
RESULTS: Of 140,552 incident cases, 100,843 (71%) were in group A and 39,709 (29%) in group B. Patients in group B had 3.26 ± 1.78 admissions to acute care before referral to an in-hospital cardiac rehabilitation programme. Male gender, age in women and comorbidities (more than two) were higher in group B ( P < 0.0001). Patients in group B had a higher number of interventional procedures ( P < 0.0001), drug prescription and outpatient visit rate ( P < 0.0001). Total mortality was 30% in group A versus 29% in group B. At Cox and logistic regression analyses, after adjustment for covariates, group B had a significantly lower risk of mortality (hazard ratio 0.5768, 95% confidence interval 0.5650-0.5888, P < 0.0001) and readmissions (0.7997, 0.7758-0.8244, P < 0.0001) than group A.
CONCLUSION: This study showed in a large population of heart failure patients that in-hospital cardiac rehabilitation is associated with a reduction of all-cause mortality and rehospitalisations in heart failure. Given its potential significant benefit, referral of heart failure patients to an in-hospital cardiac rehabilitation programme should be promoted.