Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) referral is a Class I post-myocardial infarction (MI) recommendation from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, yet referral rates remain strikingly low, with cardiologists some of the worst under-referring offenders. This paper seeks to review the evolution of CR and its well-established benefits, as well as reasons behind the poor referral and utilization.
CR is a secondary prevention program for cardiovascular disease (CVD) that was first initiated in the 1970s as a hospital-based exercise program after an acute MI, but then evolved into a comprehensive multi-disciplinary program for patients with a wider range of cardiovascular diseases. CR mortality and morbidity benefits have endured over decades, even as interventional and pharmacological cardiovascular therapeutics have improved and as patients have become relatively more stable. Despite being an evidence-based clinical standard, referral and participation in CR are disconcertingly low. In efforts to combat poor referral rates, and improve care in the contemporary care environment, the approach to CR is evolving. Innovations include broadening CR beyond the hospital setting into remote- and hybrid-based formats, while still incorporating exercise training, risk factor reduction, and education, as well as behavioral and psychosocial support. Nonetheless, there still remain many challenges to overcome in order to increase participation of all ages, financials, races, and sexes. With new performance measures as well as an increasing number of NIH-funded studies on the horizon, there is hope that CR will become a relatively more valued and utilized component of cardiovascular preventative care.

© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.