Fewer than one-fifth of seniors participate in critical rehabilitation, study finds

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Even though Medicare covers the cost of cardiac rehabilitation, less than one in five senior citizens follow through with the beneficial therapy after a heart attack or open-heart surgery, researchers have found.

Among Medicare beneficiaries age 65 or older, women were less likely to participate than men. Also, study subjects at the older end of the spectrum were less likely than younger people to take part. In addition, non-whites were significantly less likely than whites to follow through with the rehab, according to researchers at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA.

Investigators, who evaluated Medicare claims data on 267,427 men and women age 65 or older, said that available cardiac rehabilitation programs should be promoted to all patients after a cardiac hospitalization. They found that in the year following hospital discharge, less than 19% of patients in the study had been to at least one session of cardiac rehabilitation. Patients who had had bypass surgery were far more likely (31%) to receive rehabilitation than patients who had had a heart attack (14%).

The study is reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.