Background: Cardiac rehabilitation is widely recognized as a medical management procedure that reduces mortality, but the cardiovascular safety of exercise training has not been clearly established. Published data are retrospective or outdated, as patient management has substantially progressed in recent years. The aim of this prospective registry was to determine the current complication rate during exercise performed in the course of cardiac rehabilitation.
Methods: This study was conducted by the Functional Evaluation and Cardiac Rehabilitation Working Group of the French Society of Cardiology. During a 1-year period, 65 cardiac rehabilitation centers reported that serious events had occurred during or 1 hour after an exercise stress test or a training session. Severe cardiovascular events were validated by a scientific committee.
Results: A total of 25,420 patients (78% men; mean age, 61.3 years) were included in the study. Initial indications for cardiac rehabilitation were post-cardiac surgery (coronary bypass, 34.3%; valvular surgery, 18.4%); recent percutaneous coronary intervention (21.6%); and other coronary (13.2%) and noncoronary (12.5%) conditions. The study population underwent 42,419 exercise stress tests and 743,471 patient-hours of exercise training. Twenty severe cardiac events were reported: 5 were related to exercise testing and 15 were related to exercise training. The event rate was 1 per 8484 exercise stress tests and 1 per 49,565 patient-hours of exercise training; the cardiac arrest rate was 1.3 per million patient-hours of exercise. Neither fatal complications nor emergency defibrillations were reported.
Conclusion: The frequency of major cardiovascular complications during supervised exercise training in France is quite low.