Heart transplantation is considered to be the gold standard treatment for selected patients with end-stage heart disease when medical therapy has been unable to halt progression of the underlying pathology. Evidence suggests that aerobic exercise training may be effective in reversing the pathophysiological consequences associated with cardiac denervation and prevent immunosuppression-induced adverse effects in heart transplant recipients. The objective of this Cochrnae review was to determine the effectiveness and safety of exercise-based rehabilitation on the mortality, hospital admissions, adverse events, exercise capacity, health-related quality of life, return to work and costs for people after heart transplantation.
Two review authors independently screened all identified references for inclusion based on pre-specified inclusion criteria. Disagreements were resolved by consensus or by involving a third person. Two review authors extracted outcome data from the included trials and assessed their risk of bias. One review author extracted study characteristics from included studies and a second author checked them against the trial report for accuracy.
The authors found moderate quality evidence suggesting that exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation improves exercise capacity, and that exercise has no impact on health-related quality of life in the short-term (median 12 weeks follow-up), in heart transplant recipients. Cardiac rehabilitation appears to be safe in this population, but long-term follow-up data are incomplete and further good quality and adequately-powered trials are needed to demonstrate the longer-term benefits of exercise on safety and impact on both clinical and patient-related outcomes, such as health-related quality of life, and healthcare costs.