Objective: To update the Cochrane systematic review of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation (CR) for heart failure.
Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials was undertaken. MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library were searched up to January 2013. Trials with 6 or more months of follow-up were included if they assessed the effects of exercise interventions alone or as a component of comprehensive CR programme compared with no exercise control.
Results: 33 trials were included with 4740 participants predominantly with a reduced ejection fraction (<40%) and New York Heart Association class II and III. Compared with controls, while there was no difference in pooled all-cause mortality between exercise CR with follow-up to 1 year (risk ratio (RR) 0.93; 95% CI 0.69 to 1.27, p=0.67), there was a trend towards a reduction in trials with follow-up beyond 1 year (RR 0.88; 0.75 to 1.02, 0.09). Exercise CR reduced the risk of overall (RR 0.75; 0.62 to 0.92, 0.005) and heart failure-specific hospitalisation (RR 0.61; 0.46 to 0.80, 0.0004) and resulted in a clinically important improvement in the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure questionnaire (mean difference: -5.8 points, -9.2 to -2.4, 0.0007). Univariate meta-regression analysis showed that these benefits were independent of the type and dose of exercise CR, and trial duration of follow- up, quality or publication date.
Conclusions: This updated Cochrane review shows that improvements in hospitalisation and health-related quality of life with exercise-based CR appear to be consistent across patients regardless of CR programme characteristics and may reduce mortality in the longer term. An individual participant data meta-analysis is needed to provide confirmatory evidence of the importance of patient subgroup and programme level characteristics (eg, exercise dose) on outcome.
Keywords: HEART FAILURE.