Cardiac rehabilitation and quality of life: a systematic review

Int J Nurs Stud. 2012 Jun;49(6):755-71. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2011.11.019. Epub 2011 Dec 23.


Objective: The objective of this systematic review was to explore the effects of cardiac rehabilitation interventions on the quality of life of patients with coronary heart disease with a specific focus on interventions that could be delivered within the context of a publicly funded health service.

Design: Systematic review of trials reporting quality of life data as an outcome measure. Electronic databases (CINAHL, MEDLINE and PsycINFO) were searched from 1 January 1999 to 25 November 2010 in the English language. Inclusion criteria were: randomised controlled trials of cardiac rehabilitation as configured for a publicly funded health service. Data were extracted by one reviewer and checked by a second reviewer.

Results: The 16 papers reported RCTs conducted in nine countries. Fifteen measurement instruments were utilised to measure quality of life across the different studies precluding a meta-analysis. Four themes emerged from the thematic analysis of the selected papers: physical well-being (including fitness and symptoms); psychological well-being (including anxiety and depression); social well-being (including family life and relationships); and functional status (including return to work and previous life style). Physical domain outcomes suggest that cardiac rehabilitation may improve physical well-being and levels of physical activity and thereby improved levels of physical fitness. Both physical and psychological domain outcomes suggest that home-based interventions are at least as effective as centre-based interventions. Relatively few trials reported on quality of life within the social domain and any difference between centre-based and home-based interventions appeared to favour the home-based intervention.

Conclusions: This review indicates that cardiac rehabilitation improves the quality of life for coronary heart disease patients and that quality of life improvements have a bi-directional relationship with increased physical activity and vocational status. Further research is needed to explore the relationship of quality of life outcomes to cardiac mortality, the relationship between improved physical well-being and anxiety, and the quality of life and mortality effects of cardiac rehabilitation in older people.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Heart Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life*