Background: Effective programs in cardiac rehabilitation exist to manage the manifestations and consequences of cardiovascular illness. Unfortunately, these programs are underutilized, with only 11-60% of eligible participants completing programs (Leon et al., 2005; Sanderson et al., 2004; Suaya et al., 2007). To date, most cardiac rehabilitation research has focused on urban, male program completers with little attention given to factors affecting overall outcomes such as retention or geographic variability (Taylor et al., 2004).
Purpose: The purposes of this study were to evaluate changes in body mass index (BMI), physical activity (METS), and quality of life (SF-36) by retention status and gender in cardiac rehabilitation participants from pre to post program participation. Additionally, the study aimed to identify predictors of retention in cardiac rehabilitation programs.
Methods: The study consisted of a retrospective medical chart review on archival data that were deidentified. Data were collected from two sites, one urban and one rural on cardiac rehabilitation participants attending between the years of 2004 and 2007. Sampling matched gender and geographic location each year.
Results: The current study examined 230 participants (115 male; 115 female) following a 12-week cardiac rehabilitation program. The sample was predominantly Caucasian (90.4%), married (69%), earned $30,000 or less annually (41%), had an average age of 62 years (SD=11.6) and attended an average of 25 (SD=12.3) sessions. The total sample experienced significant improvements in body mass index, physical activity, and quality of life from pre to post program participation. There were no significant differences by retention in BMI or METS and by gender in BMI or SF-36. Compared to noncompleters, completers had greater change in SF-36 scores. Rural program location was predictive of retention. Compared to females, males had greater change in METS.
Conclusions: The current sample showed improvements in BMI, METS, and SF-36 with important outcome differences on SF-36 between completers and noncompleters and on METS between males and females. Findings suggest that geographic location was an important factor in participant retention status. The results of this study provide valuable information on group differences, along with important information for designing strategies to increase retention and improve outcomes in existing cardiac rehabilitation programs.