Social support may not be key influence for patients to participate in cardiac rehab

March 30, 2003

— Contrary to widespread belief, social support may not be a key influence in whether patients participate in rehabilitation programs following coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). The study, done by Emory University School of Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine researchers, will be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 52nd Annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago.

Although cardiac rehabilitation promotes recovery and enhances quality of life after CABG, there are still low rates of participation from patients. Previous research has demonstrated the benefits of spousal support for CABG patients to participate in rehab, but broader social support has not been examined.

Researchers examined 945 patients for six months post surgery, following their first isolated CABG between May 1999 and February 2001. The ENRICHED Social Support Inventory (ESSI) was used to assess social support before the patients' CABG and six weeks after the CABG. An ESSI less than 22 indicated low social support.

There was little difference in rehab participation according to levels of social support. Fifty-two percent of patients with a low ESSI score before surgery participated in rehab compared to 59% of patients with a higher score. The difference was even less substantial after adjusting for demographic factors, medical history, cardiovascular risk factors, hospital complications and physical and psychological function. Similarly, low social support measured six weeks after CABG didn't significantly affect rehab participation.

The patients who reported participation in rehabilitation programs were younger, better educated, more often worked and were less financially strained. Rehab participants also had lower prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors and better physical function.

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that social support may not be a strong determinant of patient participation in rehab after coronary artery bypass grafting.

Emory University Health Sciences Center

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