Long-term effects of cardiac rehabilitation after heart valve surgery - results from the randomised CopenHeartVR trial

Kirstine L Sibilitz, Lars Hermann Tang, Selina Kikkenborg Berg, Lau Caspar Thygesen, Signe Stelling Risom, Trine Bernholdt Rasmussen, Jean-Paul Schmid, Britt Borregaard, Christian Hassager, Lars Køber, Rod S Taylor, Ann-Dorthe Zwisler

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Aims. The CopenHeartVR trial found positive effects of cardiac rehabilitation (CR) on physical capacity at 4 months. The long-term effects of CR following valve surgery remains unclear, especially regarding readmission and mortality. Using data from he CopenHeartVR Trial we investigated long-term effects on physical capacity, mental and physical health and effect on mortality and readmission rates as prespecified in the original protocol. Methods. A total of 147 participants were included after heart valve surgery and randomly allocated 1:1 to 12-weeks exercise-based CR including a psycho-educational programme (intervention group) or control. Physical capacity was assessed as peak oxygen uptake (VO2 peak) measured by cardiopulmonary exercise testing, mental and physical health by Short Form-36 questionnaire, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and HeartQol. Mortality and readmission were obtained from hospital records and registers. Groups were compared using mixed regression model analysis and log rank test. Results. No differences in VO2 peak at 12 months or in self-assessed mental and physical health at 24 months (68% vs 75%, p = .120) was found. However, our data demonstrated reduction in readmissions in the intervention group at intermediate time points; after 3, 6 (43% vs 59%, p = .03), and 12 (53% vs 67%, p = .04) months, respectively, but no significant effect at 24 months. Conclusions. Exercise-based CR after heart valve surgery reduces combined readmissions and mortality up to 12 months despite lack of improvement in exercise capacity, physical and mental health long-term. Exercise-based CR can ensure short-term benefits in terms of physical capacity, and lower readmission within a year, but more research is needed to sustain these effects over a longer time period. These considerations should be included in the management of patients after heart valve surgery.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Cardiovascular Journal
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)247-255
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2022


  • Cardiac Rehabilitation/adverse effects
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures/adverse effects
  • Exercise Therapy/adverse effects
  • Heart Valves/surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Virtual Reality


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