Background: The effects of variations in exercise training on left ventricular (LV) remodeling in patients shortly after myocardial infarction (MI) are important but poorly understood.
Methods: Systematic review incorporating meta-analysis using meta-regression. Studies were identified via systematic searches of: OVID MEDLINE (1950 to 2009), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (1991 to 2009), AMED (1985 to 2009), EMBASE (1988 to 2009), PUBMED (1966 to 2009), SPORT DISCUS (1975 to 2009), SCOPUS (1950 to 2009) and WEB OF SCIENCE (1950 to 2009) using the medical subject headings: myocardial infarction, post myocardial infarction, post infarction, heart attack, ventricular remodeling, ventricular volumes, ejection fraction, left ventricular function, exercise, exercise therapy, kinesiotherapy, exercise training. Reference lists of all identified studies were also manually searched for further relevant studies. Studies selected were randomized controlled trials of exercise training interventions reporting ejection fraction (EF) and/or ventricular volumes in patients following recent MI (≤ 3 months) post-MI patients involving control groups. Studies were excluded if they were not randomized, did not have a 'usual-care' control (involving no exercise), evaluated a non-exercise intervention, or did not involve human subjects. Non-English studies were also excluded.
Results: After screening of 1029 trials, trials were identified that reported EF (12 trials, n = 647), End Systolic Volumes (ESV) (9 trials, n = 475) and End Diastolic Volumes (EDV) (10 trials, n = 512). Meta-regression identified that changes in EF effect size difference decreased as the time between MI and initiation of the exercise program lengthened, and increased as the duration of the program increased (Q = 25.48, df = 2, p < 0.01, R2 = 0.76). Greater reductions in ESV and EDV (as indicated by effect size decreases) occurred with earlier initiation of exercise training and with longer training durations (ESV: Q = 23.89, df = 2, p < 0.05, R2 = 0.79; EDV: Q = 27.42, df = 2, p < 0.01, R2 = 0.83). Differences remained following sensitivity analysis. Each week that exercise was delayed required an additional month of training to achieve the same level of benefit on LV remodeling.
Conclusions: Exercise training has beneficial effects on LV remodeling in clinically stable post-MI patients with greatest benefits occurring when training starts earlier following MI (from one week) and lasts longer than 3 months.