Determinants of referral to cardiac rehabilitation programs in patients with coronary artery disease: a systematic review

Am Heart J. 2006 Feb;151(2):249-56. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2005.03.034.


Background: Despite the documented efficacy of cardiac rehabilitation (CR), a minority of patients with diagnosed coronary artery disease are referred. Although referral is a necessary step in the promotion of CR uptake, little is known about its determinants.

Purpose: The objective of this paper was to systematically review the available literature on factors predicting referral of patients to CR to appraise both their relative impact and consistency across studies.

Methods: Studies were identified by searching MEDLINE (1966-2003), CINAHL (1982-2003), HealthSTAR (1975-2003), EMBASE (1966-2003), and The Cochrane Library Controlled Trials. Search terms were "myocardial infarction," "acute myocardial infarction," "coronary artery disease," combined with "rehabilitation," "cardiac rehabilitation," "secondary prevention," "exercise training," "referral," and/or "consultation." Forty-five studies were identified and independently assessed by 2 reviewers using predetermined eligibility criteria.

Results: Ten published observational studies (1999-2004) including 30,333 coronary artery disease patients were selected. Determinants of referral to CR were grouped as sociodemographic, health status, and health care system factors. Major predictors were English speaking (RR 9.56, 95% CI 2.18-41.93), prior myocardial infarction (RR 2.73, 95% CI 1.69-4.42), being admitted to hospitals providing CR (RR 5.35, 95% CI 4.04-7.10), and having insurance coverage (RR 2.94, 95% CI 1.13-7.66).

Conclusion: This review highlights disparities in referral to CR and reveals a treatment gap in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Precise estimates of the impact of all factors on referral are not possible, but some hierarchies and potential priorities for action are evident.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Coronary Disease / rehabilitation*
  • Health Status
  • Hospitalization
  • Insurance, Health
  • Myocardial Infarction / rehabilitation*
  • Referral and Consultation / standards*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors