BACKGROUND: Heart valve diseases are common with an estimated prevalence of 2.5% in the Western world. The number is rising because of an ageing population. Once symptomatic, heart valve diseases are potentially lethal, and heavily influence daily living and quality of life. Surgical treatment, either valve replacement or repair, remains the treatment of choice. However, post-surgery, the transition to daily living may become a physical, mental and social challenge. We hypothesize that a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program can improve physical capacity and self-assessed mental health and reduce hospitalization and healthcare costs after heart valve surgery.
METHODS: This randomized clinical trial, CopenHeartVR, aims to investigate whether cardiac rehabilitation in addition to usual care is superior to treatment as usual after heart valve surgery. The trial will randomly allocate 210 patients 1:1 to an intervention or a control group, using central randomization, and blinded outcome assessment and statistical analyses. The intervention consists of 12 weeks of physical exercise and a psycho-educational intervention comprising five consultations. The primary outcome is peak oxygen uptake (VO2 peak) measured by cardiopulmonary exercise testing with ventilatory gas analysis. The secondary outcome is self-assessed mental health measured by the standardized questionnaire Short Form-36. Long-term healthcare utilization and mortality as well as biochemistry, echocardiography and cost-benefit will be assessed. A mixed-method design will be used to evaluate qualitative and quantitative findings, encompassing a survey-based study before the trial and a qualitative pre- and post-intervention study.
CONCLUSION: This randomized clinical trial will contribute with evidence of whether cardiac rehabilitation should be provided after heart valve surgery. The study is approved by the local regional Research Ethics Committee (H-1-2011-157), and the Danish Data Protection Agency (j.nr. 2007-58-0015).
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Trial registered 16 March 2012; ClinicalTrials.gov ( NCT01558765 ).