This study performed a contemporary systematic review and meta-analysis of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation (ExCR) for heart failure (HF).

There is an increasing call for trials of models of ExCR for patients with HF that provide alternatives to conventional center-based provision and recruitment of patients that reflect a broader HF population.

The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO databases were searched between January 2013 and January 2018. Randomized trials comparing patients undergoing ExCR to control patients not undergoing exercise were included. Study outcomes were pooled using meta-analysis. Metaregression examined potential effect modification according to ExCR program characteristics, and risk of bias, trial sequential analysis (TSA), and Grading of Recommendations Assessment Development and Evaluation (GRADE) were applied.

Across 44 trials (n = 5,783; median follow-up of 6 months), compared with control subjects, ExCR did not reduce the risk of all-cause mortality (relative risk [RR]: 0.89; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.66 to 1.21; TSA-adjusted CI: 0.26 to 3.10) but did reduce all-cause hospitalization (RR: 0.70; 95% CI: 0.60 to 0.83; TSA-adjusted CI: 0.54 to 0.92) and HF-specific hospitalization (RR: 0.59; 95% CI: 0.42 to 0.84; TSA-adjusted CI: 0.14 for 2.46), and patients reported improved Minnesota Living with Heart Failure questionnaire overall scores (mean difference: -7.1; 95% CI: -10.5 to -3.7; TSA-adjusted CI: -13.2 to -1.0). No evidence of differential effects across different models of delivery, including center- versus home-based programs, were found.

This review supports the beneficial effects of ExCR on patient outcomes. These benefits appear to be consistent across ExCR program characteristics. GRADE and TSA assessments indicated that further high-quality randomized trials are needed.

Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.