Cardiac rehabilitation consists of three phases of highly personalized care. Patients receive the medical and emotional support they need to recover from heart attack and heart surgery.
At John C. Lincoln Hospitals, these first two cardiac rehab phases may span up to three months. The third phase is a health maintenance and personal improvement program in which patients may be enrolled for an additional three to six months. However, patients may participate in this phase, as needed, for many years.
Throughout each cardiac rehab phase, patients work with a highly coordinated team of health professionals — including cardiologists, registered nurses, exercise physiologists, nutritionists and medical social workers — who have specialized roles in the rehabilitation process.
The phases of cardiac rehab begin in the hospital — as soon as the patient is able to participate in rehabilitation, following surgery or a cardiac event.
Cardiac Rehab Phase 1: During Hospitalization
Because muscles can lose their strength quickly if they're not used, it's important to get moving as soon as possible. During Phase 1 of cardiac rehab, a nurse or patient care technician will accompany the patient on short walks, to build strength and prevent lung problems and pneumonia.
In addition, time is set aside to answer questions about the recovery process. Patients are educated on how to help manage their recovery at home, including guidance on exercise and lifestyle management. Once at home, patients embark upon a walking program, to gain strength and stamina gradually over time, in preparation for Phase 2.
Cardiac Rehab Phase 2: After Hospitalization
Phase 2 of cardiac rehab is offered on an outpatient basis, beginning at two to six weeks following discharge from the hospital. Phase 2 cardiac rehab is designed to restore and maintain a healthy heart, as well as support the patient's psychological and emotional wellbeing. The phase typically spans four to 12 weeks, requires a physician's prescription and is covered by Medicare and most private health insurance plans. Please check with your specific insurance plan regarding any co-pay that may be required.
A patient may participate in three exercise sessions per week during this phase, using equipment such as treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines, upper body strengthening machines, stepper machines and stair climbers. Most patients participate in strength training and light weightlifting, as well. Throughout these exercise sessions, the patient's heart rhythm, blood pressure, oxygen levels and other vital signs are closely monitored with state-of-the-art equipment.
Lifestyle and dietary consultations are an important element of this phase. Patients receive the support they need to return to health and sustain a high quality of life in Phase 3 of cardiac rehab.
Cardiac Rehab Phase 3: Maintenance
Preserving and protecting heart health is the goal of Phase 3 cardiac rehab, a health maintenance and self-improvement program for motivated patients. Phase 3 is a structured exercise program consisting of one-hour sessions held three times each week. As an extension of the Phase 2, these sessions guide the individual to exercise independently.
Some patients may "start" cardiac rehab in Phase 3, depending on their condition and their physician's approval. These patients are provided with the education, tools, and an exercise program to support a healthy approach to exercise and lifestyle.
A physician's prescription is required to participate in Phase 3 of cardiac rehab. While not covered by insurance, only a minimal fee is required to participate.