To celebrate 30 years of Cardiac Rehabilitation and ten years at our current facility at 62 Tilley Dr. in South Burlington, Vermont, the University of Vermont Medical Center will host an Open House on October 6, 2014 from 5 – 8 p.m.  The event is free and open to the public. 

Patrick Savage, MS, is a Senior Exercise Physiologist in Cardiac Rehabilitation at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Patrick Savage, MS, is a Senior Exercise Physiologist in Cardiac Rehabilitation at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

The care of patients recovering from a heart problem has evolved dramatically over the last century. In the 1930s, six weeks of bed rest was the recommendation for patients with heart attack. Physical activities, while sitting in a chair, were introduced in the 1940s.  In the 1950s, five minutes of daily walking was advocated but only after four weeks of rest. It was studies from the 1950s that demonstrated that exercise was a healthy and effective way to rehabilitate from heart conditions. These studies paved the way for cardiac rehabilitation.

A Brief History of Cardiac Rehabilitation

Inpatient cardiac rehabilitation programs were first developed in the 1960s when we gradually began to recognize that getting patients up and moving around avoided many of the complications of bed rest. At this time, a more comprehensive approach to the rehabilitation of patients recovering from a cardiac event was first proposed.

Contemporary cardiac rehabilitation began in the early 1970s when exercise programs were extended beyond hospital discharge to highly structured, physician-supervised exercise programs.  The focus of cardiac rehabilitation programs in the 1970s was almost entirely on exercise training to reverse the physical decline that resulted from extended bed rest. At this time, however, participation in outpatient cardiac rehabilitation programs was limited to males under 65 years of age with a diagnosis of an uncomplicated heart attack or coronary bypass surgery.

Cardiac Rehabilitation at the University of Vermont Medical Center

It was in the early 1980s that Cardiac Rehabilitation at Medical Center of Vermont was established by Jack Hanson, MD.  Thirty years ago, in 1984, Phil Ades, MD, a cardiologist with an expertise in clinical exercise physiology, became Director of Preventive Cardiology. Under Dr. Ades’ direction, cardiac rehabilitation changed from an exercise program to a more comprehensive, multifaceted, and medical and lifestyle modification model. Now, regardless of age or gender, participants in cardiac rehabilitation programs include patients with the following heart-related medical conditions: heart attack, coronary artery bypass grafting, chronic stable angina pectoris, percutaneous coronary intervention, chronic heart failure, heart transplant, valvular surgery, and arrhythmias.

What the Research Shows

Research studies have shown that cardiac rehabilitation programs play a critical role in the short and long term care of patients with heart disease. Short-term, cardiac rehabilitation programs help guide individuals through the fear and anxiety of returning to an active lifestyle. Long-term, cardiac rehabilitation participation results in increased survival and improved quality of life.  Research studies have reported exercise-based rehabilitation results in an estimated 25 percent to 30 percent reduction in mortality, which is comparable to the effects of our most potent medications.

The evolution of cardiac rehabilitation has occurred primarily as a result of evidence-based research. The cardiac rehabilitation program at the University of Vermont Medical Center is a recognized, international leader in the treatment and care for patients with heart conditions. Over the past 30 years, thousands and thousands of people in Vermont with heart problems have directly benefitted from the services provided through the University of Vermont Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program. Additionally, during this time, a wide variety of research has also been performed at the UVM Medical Center that has affected the care of heart patients everywhere. The focus of the research has been clinical and patient-oriented. In particular, we have developed exercise training programs to maximize cardiovascular risk reduction and improve physical function.  Furthermore, we have developed programming to expand cardiac rehabilitation services in general but, in particular, to traditionally underserved populations, such as the elderly and economically disadvantaged. Cardiac Rehabilitation truly is the embodiment of our stated mission of “integrating patient care, education, and research in a caring environment.”

Over the last century, tremendous surgical and pharmaceutical advances have occurred to dramatically improve outcomes for patients with cardiac problems. Even with these advances, cardiac rehabilitation remains a key to long-term care for patients. For more than 30 years, cardiac rehabilitation at the UVM Medical Center has helped heart patients to live longer and better lives.

You’re Invited!

To celebrate 30 years of Cardiac Rehabilitation and ten years at our current facility at 62 Tilley Dr. in South Burlington, Vermont, we will host an Open House on October 6, 2014 from 5 – 8 p.m.  Current participants and recent or long-ago program graduates and families are all welcome.  We look forward to celebrating this anniversary with people who have been involved in the program. What better way to look forward to the future of cardiac rehabilitation than reminiscing about how far we have come?

Patrick Savage, MS, is a Senior Exercise Physiologist in Cardiac Rehabilitation at the University of Vermont Medical Center. 

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