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



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.


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.


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).


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.

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We would like to acknowledge the valuable assistance of Judith Fethney, our resident statistician, in providing guidance on our statistical methods.

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Correspondence to Dion Candelaria.

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Candelaria, D., Randall, S., Ladak, L. et al. 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 29, 579–592 (2020).

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  • Health-related quality of life
  • Quality of life
  • Exercise
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Acute coronary syndrome
  • Systematic review
  • Meta-analysis