Optimizing Care for Patients Waiting for Cardiac Surgery

OTTAWA, February 28, 2017 – The University of Ottawa Heart Institute has launched a new program for all patients waiting for coronary artery bypass surgery or heart valve replacement or repair. The program, called Cardiac PreHab, will help those patients to improve their health before a procedure.

Cardiac rehabilitation, a comprehensive program to get patients healthy again after a heart attack, cardiac surgery or other cardiac events, has been shown to save lives. But the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) now wants to find out if patients waiting for non-emergency heart surgery could start improving their health before their procedure, and if this could make their recovery easier and improve their outcomes after surgery.

Portions of the new program have been in place for a while: patients waiting for outpatient procedures who come in for pre-admission appointments have long been connected with services such as smoking cessation, physiotherapy or social work on an ad hoc basis. But the PreHab program now aims to standardize these assessments and referrals, and to make them as comprehensive as possible for all patients waiting for outpatient surgery.

“Rather than letting the waiting period for a procedure be one of inactivity and anxiety, PreHab can use that time to help patients become as ready as possible for their procedure,” said Heather Sherrard, Executive Vice President of Clinical Operations and Chief Nursing Officer at the Heart Institute. “They may need to quit smoking, their diabetes may need to be better managed, they may be able to improve their diet or level of exercise. The PreHab program can help with all those issues to get these patients as fit and healthy as they can be.”

“Patients have a lot of misconceptions about what they should be doing before surgery,” explained Jane Brownrigg, Clinical Manager of Cardiac Rehabilitation. “We talk to patients waiting for surgery who say ‘My doctor told me to take it easy,’ and they’ve interpreted that as ‘Just sit on the couch’. Many think they should go on a diet, she continues, which can actually cause muscle loss—an unwanted side effect before any procedure.”

As patients complete PreHab, data will be gathered to evaluate the program and it will be possible to see if patients who come to PreHab are more likely to also register into cardiac rehab. There is a very high rate of enrollment for rehab at the Heart Institute compared to other centres across the country, but still only a little above half of all eligible patients enroll. Increasing that number is vital as rehab reduces morbidity and mortality rates and this new program may contribute to this improvement.

Vincent Lamontagne
Director, Corporate Communications
613-899-6760 (cell.)