Health-related quality of life and exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation in contemporary acute coronary syndrome patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Qual Life Res. 2020 Mar;29(3):579-592. doi: 10.1007/s11136-019-02338-y. Epub 2019 Nov 5.


Purpose: To review the literature on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) outcomes for exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation (EBCR) in contemporary acute coronary syndrome (ACS) patients.

Methods: Electronic databases (CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, and CINAHL) were searched from January 2000 to March 2019 for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing EBCR to a no-exercise control in ACS patients recruited after year 2000, follow-up of at least 6 months, and HRQoL as outcome. Potential papers were independently screened by two reviewers. Risks of bias were assessed using the Cochrane Tool. Data analyses were performed using RevMan v5.3, random effects model.

Results: Fourteen RCTs (1739 participants) were included, with eight studies suitable for meta-analyses. EBCR resulted in statistically significant and clinically important improvements in physical performance (mean difference [MD] 7.09, 95% CI 0.08, 14.11) and general health (MD 5.08, 95% CI 1.03, 9.13) (SF-36) at 6 months, and in physical functioning (MD 9.82, 95% CI 1.46, 18.19) at 12 months. Statistically significant and sustained improvements were also found in social and physical functioning. Meta-analysis of two studies using the MacNew Heart Disease HRQoL instrument did not show any significant benefits. Of the six studies unsuitable for meta-analyses, five reported significant changes in overall HRQoL, general physical activity levels and functional capacity, or quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs).

Conclusions: In an era where adherence to clinical practice guidelines has improved survival, EBCR still achieves clinically meaningful improvements in physical performance, general health, and physical functioning in the short and long term in contemporary ACS patients.

Keywords: Acute coronary syndrome; Cardiac rehabilitation; Exercise; Health-related quality of life; Meta-analysis; Quality of life; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life / psychology*