Clinical and Demographic Trends in Cardiac Rehabilitation: 1996-2015

Diann E. Gaalema, Patrick D. Savage, Kevin Leadholm, Jason Rengo, Shelly Naud, Jeffrey S. Priest, Philip A. Ades

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Purpose: Clinical interventions in programs such as cardiac rehabilitation (CR) are guided by clinical characteristics of participating patients. This study describes changes in CR participant characteristics over 20 yr. Methods: To examine changes in patient characteristics over time, we analyzed data from 1996 to 2015 (n = 5396) garnered from a systematically and prospectively gathered database. Linear, logistic, multinomial logistic or negative binomial regression was used, as appropriate. Effects of sex and index diagnosis were considered both as interactions and as additive effects. Results: Analyses revealed that mean age increased (from 60.7 to 64.2 yr), enrollment of women increased (from 26.8% to 29.6%), and index diagnosis has shifted; coronary artery bypass surgery decreased (from 37.2% to 21.6%), whereas heart valve repair/replacement increased (from 0% to 10.6%). Risk factors also shifted with increases in body mass index (28.7 vs 29.6 kg/m2), obesity (from 33.2% to 39.6%), hypertension (from 51% to 62.5%), type 2 diabetes mellitus (from 17.3% to 21.7%), and those reporting current smoking (from 6.6% to 8.4%). Directly measured peak aerobic capacity remained relatively stable throughout. The proportion of patients on statin therapy increased from 63.6% to 98.9%, coinciding with significant improvements in lipid levels. Conclusions: Compared with 1996, participants entering CR in 2015 were older, more overweight, and had a higher prevalence of coronary risk factors. Lipid values improved substantially concurrent with increased statin use. While the percentage of female participants increased, they continue to be underrepresented. Patients with heart valve repair/replacement now constitute 10.6% of the patients enrolled. Clinical programs need to recognize changing characteristics of attendees to best tailor interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-273
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • cardiac rehabilitation
  • patient characteristics
  • risk factors
  • time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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