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Cardiac Subacute Rehab: 5 Things to Know About It

After an acute cardiac illness, doctors recommend cardiac subacute rehabilitation in certain cases. Cardiac subacute rehab focuses on improving cardiovascular function so that patients can return to their lives at their homes. But what is the process of cardiac subacute rehab? Keep on reading to find out more.

Key takeaways:

Broadly speaking, the healthcare systems offer four different types of services: health promotion, disease prevention, treatments, and rehabilitation. During an acute illness such as stroke, COVID-19, or trauma, patients are hospitalized for acute care. Later in the subacute or postacute phase, patients are transferred to a subacute rehab facility.

In the U.S., one in every five deaths occurs due to cardiovascular diseases. With subacute cardiac rehabilitation, it is possible to have better patient outcomes. Here, we focus on the benefits of cardiac subacute rehab and discuss the various services it offers.

What is cardiac subacute rehab?

Rehabilitation after cardiac diseases enables patients to improve their quality of life. Since hospital beds are meant for acute care patients, subacute care patients need to be transferred to specialized rehab before they can return to their homes. The American Heart Association (AHA) and The American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) recommend specific components such as nutritional counseling, skills for managing blood pressure, and quitting tobacco for cardiac rehabilitation.

1. Benefits of cardiac subacute rehab

Most common benefits of cardiac subacute rehab contain:

  • Physical health. Cardiac subacute rehab improves the function of the heart. Depending on their abilities, occupational therapists or physical therapists work with patients to develop exercise regimens. These exercises improve the ability of the heart to pump blood.
  • Mental health. After a cardiac event, associated mental health issues such as depression affect patients’ lives. Working with behavior therapists or counselors helps in improving mental health.
  • Prevention. Patients are encouraged to make healthier choices and thereby prevent future cardiac events. For example, during cardiac subacute rehab, patients work with dietitians to maintain healthy body weight, blood sugar levels, and lipid profile. They also receive counseling and necessary support for quitting smoking.
  • Financial health. Although hospitals have inpatient rehabilitation facilities, they are expensive and hence not suited for longer duration of stay. Cardiac subacute rehab facilities are a financially viable option for many patients. Additionally, most health insurance companies pay for cardiac subacute rehab.

2. Who can benefit from cardiac subacute rehab?

All patients with acute cardiac illnesses can benefit from cardiac subacute rehab after their initial condition is stabilized. Cardiac subacute rehab is well-suited for all genders and age groups. Some common indications for subacute rehab are:

  • Cardiac surgeries. Coronary artery bypass surgery, angioplasty, valve replacement surgeries, and heart transplantation.
  • Acute coronary syndrome. A group of diseases in which the blood flow to the heart is reduced.
  • Congestive heart failure. A chronic condition where the heart is unable to pump blood.
  • Chronic stable angina. Chest pain during physical activity.
  • Heart attack. Patients with recent myocardial infarction.

In some cases, doctors may advise limited subacute rehab where the patients do not do physical exercises. For instance, unstable angina (unpredictable chest pain), thrombosis (presence of blood clots), and diseases that affect muscles may impact patients’ ability to exercise.

Research has shown that some patients are less likely to complete subacute cardiac rehab. For example, older adults with other diseases, such as arthritis, may find it difficult to do exercises and hence leave cardiac subacute rehab. In such situations, the care team is usually able to provide alternative exercises that the patient can perform. Talk to your care providers before you consider dropping out of cardiac subacute rehab.

3. Cardiac subacute rehab process

The subacute phase of recovery may range between 3–12 weeks. The care team conducts an initial assessment of physical function and comorbidities. Next, the care team develops a therapy plan for the patient. This therapy plan usually includes patient education, various interventions or training, and relaxation activities.

4. Recovery milestones and goals

The main goal of the subacute rehab phase is to make a patient more independent and to gain self-monitoring skills. The care team can set up certain recovery milestones:

  • Patient education and self-monitoring of symptoms
  • Reduce heart disease-related symptoms
  • Be able to do activities of daily living
  • Reduce mental/emotional stress
  • Eating healthy

5. Cardiac subacute rehab facilities

Finding a good cardiac subacute rehab facility can be overwhelming. A few things to look for in a rehab facility are their experience, areas of expertise, and availability of nursing services. Usually, your hospital will have its own subacute care facility or may make recommendations before they discharge the patient. Additionally, check with your health insurance company for recommendations. Health insurance companies can also estimate the expenses for cardiac subacute rehab facilities.

In a nutshell, cardiac subacute rehab helps patients return to their homes after the initial acute illness. Cardiac subacute rehab has several components, including exercises, nutrition, and mental well-being. Your hospital can give you more information about a cardiac subacute rehab near you or well-suited for you. Your health insurance company can also provide insight into the expenses involved. With cardiac subacute rehab, patients can return to their lives with strength and self-monitoring skills.

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