In addition, older patients, those with a so-called non-ST-segment elevation heart attack and those with other medical conditions, such as lung disease, were less likely to be referred for cardiac rehabilitation, Fonarow's group noted.
"This is a missed opportunity to impact the care of these patients," study author Dr. Todd M. Brown, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said. "Physicians need to be educated about the importance of cardiac rehabilitation and emphasize to their patients the need to attend."
Fonarow thinks that new efforts are needed to get doctors to refer patients to cardiac rehab.
"Increased physician awareness regarding the clinical benefits of cardiac rehabilitation and new initiatives to overcome barriers to referral are critical to improve the quality of care and outcomes for patients with coronary artery disease," Fonarow said.
Dr. Byron Lee, an associate professor of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco, says that cardiac rehabilitation can be just as effective in preventing another heart attack as the drugs these patients take.
"It is shameful how physicians underutilize cardiac rehabilitation in the United States," Lee said. "We emphasize expensive drugs and interventions, when a simple rehabilitation program can do just as much, if not more, to reduce the risk of death and recurrent heart attack," he said.
For more information on cardiac rehabilitation, visit the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Todd M. Brown, M.D., as
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