Surviving a heart attack can feel miraculous. What comes next in the road to recovery requires a top-notch cardiac rehabilitation program, such as the Intensive Outpatient Therapy offered at Prowers Medical Center.
“The approach to cardiac rehabilitation is to start the program as soon after discharge from the hospital so that we can begin to work at strengthening the heart muscle as soon as possible,” said Jeanna Warman, CRT, Cardiopulmonary Supervisor. “Studies have found that cardiac rehabilitation decreases the chances of death in the five years following a heart attack or bypass surgery by approximately 20% to 30%,” Warman said.
As patient requirements vary, rehabilitation is tailored to the needs of each individual based on their diagnosis and abilities. “We alter each program to better help the patient achieve their individual goals,” Warman said.
The Importance of Cardiac Rehabilitation
The care that happens after a heart attack is key to improve the heart’s future health and help improve the patient’s quality of life. Heart surgery can include bypass surgery, stent placement or valve placement. Because a heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked, this can lead to damage of the heart muscle. As a result of the damage, the heart may be weakened and not able to pump as much blood as before the heart attack.
With proper treatment and lifestyle changes after a heart attack, further damage can be limited or prevented, according to the American Heart Association.
“There are many benefits to cardiac rehabilitation, such as relieving chest pain, building healthier habits, including getting more physical activity, quitting smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet, and reducing stress,” Warman said. Improving mood is also key. Warman explained that people are likely to feel depressed after a heart attack; cardiac rehabilitation can help prevent and lessen depression.
About Cardiac Rehabilitation
Cardiac rehabilitation includes four phases. While not all patients require all phases, they include:
- Acute Phase: This occurs soon after a cardiac procedure such as open heart surgery and can take place while the patient is in the Intensive Care Unit. This phase includes assessing patient mobility and doing safe exercises while being closely monitored by hospital staff. The goal is to relocate the patient to a cardiac unit with intermediate level monitoring, or a cardiac stepdown unit.
- Subacute Phase: This next phase begins at an outpatient facility and can last anywhere from three to six weeks. With the return to functional mobility and education as key goals, the patient continues to be closely monitored during exercise and activity. Education includes learning about proper exercise procedures, exertion levels and self-monitoring the heart rate to help patients become more independent with their regimen.
- Intensive Outpatient Therapy: This can be 8 to 36 sessions, determined by the patient’s insurance for the allowed number of visits. Patients in this phase of cardiac rehabilitation that visit Prowers Medical Center participate in a group-based exercise program. They are closely monitored by cardiac nurses, physical therapists, the program director, Dr. Loewen, and the Cardiopulmonary team also helping at times, to keep a close watch for exercise tolerance and to identify any negative changes, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels and also levels of tiredness, Warman explained. Staff closely watch patient vitals and heart telemetry throughout the entire visit—the heart telemetry is a portable device that allows staff to continuously monitor patients when they are up and active, providing key data to help ensure patient safety. Activities include the use of a treadmill, arm ergometers, sitting chair exercise machines and personalized stretches.
- Independent Ongoing Conditioning: As patients have learned vital information about their condition and risk factors, and are more independent in this final maintenance phase, they can move forward with an exercise and conditioning plan seeking help from their therapist, if needed.
The Cardiac program at Prowers Medical Center has existed for more than five years. “In that amount of time, we have seen patients enter the program still dependent on oxygen post cardiac open heart surgery; when they completed our program, they were free of the supplemental oxygen and had returned to the livelihood and freedom they had prior to the cardiac event—in some instances they were actually healthier,” said Warman.
For more information on cardiac rehabilitation at Prowers Medical Center, call 719-336-6731 or visit prowersmedical.com.