Patients' expectations of returning to work, co-morbid disorders and work capacity at discharge from cardiac rehabilitation

Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2019 Aug 14;15:301-308. doi: 10.2147/VHRM.S216039. eCollection 2019.


Objective: We aimed to characterize patients after an acute cardiac event regarding their negative expectations around returning to work and the impact on work capacity upon discharge from cardiac rehabilitation (CR).

Methods: We analyzed routine data of 884 patients (52±7 years, 76% men) who attended 3 weeks of inpatient CR after an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) or cardiac surgery between October 2013 and March 2015. The primary outcome was their status determining their capacity to work (fit vs unfit) at discharge from CR. Further, sociodemographic data (eg, age, sex, and education level), diagnoses, functional data (eg, exercise stress test and 6-min walking test [6MWT]), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and self-assessment of the occupational prognosis (negative expectations and/or unemployment, Würzburger screening) at admission to CR were considered.

Results: A negative occupational prognosis was detected in 384 patients (43%). Out of these, 368 (96%) expected not to return to work after CR and/or were unemployed before CR at 29% (n=113). Affected patients showed a reduced exercise capacity (bicycle stress test: 100 W vs 118 W, P<0.01; 6MWT: 380 m vs 421 m, P<0.01) and were more likely to receive a depression diagnosis (12% vs 3%, P<0.01), as well as higher levels on the HADS. At discharge from CR, 21% of this group (n=81) were fit for work (vs 35% of patients with a normal occupational prognosis (n=175, P<0.01)). Sick leave before the cardiac event (OR 0.4, 95% CI 0.2-0.6, P<0.01), negative occupational expectations (OR 0.4, 95% CI 0.3-0.7, P<0.01) and depression (OR 0.3, 95% CI 0.1-0.8, P=0.01) reduced the likelihood of achieving work capacity upon discharge. In contrast, higher exercise capacity was positively associated.

Conclusion: Patients with a negative occupational prognosis often revealed a reduced physical performance and suffered from a high psychosocial burden. In addition, patients' occupational expectations were a predictor of work capacity at discharge from CR. Affected patients should be identified at admission to allow for targeted psychosocial care.

Keywords: cardiac rehabilitation; negative expectation; occupational prognosis; return to work; work capacity.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / psychology
  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Adult
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Return to Work*
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Work Capacity Evaluation*