Cardiac rehabilitation versus usual care for patients treated with catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation: Results of the randomized CopenHeartRFA trial

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To assess the effects of comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation compared with usual care on physical activity and mental health for patients treated with catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation.


The patients were randomized 1:1 stratified by paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation and sex to cardiac rehabilitation consisting of 12 weeks physical exercise and four psycho-educational consultations plus usual care (cardiac rehabilitation group) versus usual care. The primary outcome was Vo2 peak. The secondary outcome was self-rated mental health measured by the Short Form-36 questionnaire. Exploratory outcomes were collected.


210 patients were included (mean age: 59 years, 74% men), 72% had paroxysmal atrial fibrillation prior to ablation. Compared with usual care, the cardiac rehabilitation group had a beneficial effect on Vo2 peak at four months (24.3 mL kg−1 min−1 versus 20.7 mL kg−1 min−1, p of main effect = 0.003, p of interaction between time and intervention = 0.020). No significant difference between groups on Short Form-36 was found (53.8 versus 51.9 points, P = .20). Two serious adverse events (atrial fibrillation in relation to physical exercise and death unrelated to rehabilitation) occurred in the cardiac rehabilitation group versus one in the usual care group (death unrelated to intervention) (P = .56). In the cardiac rehabilitation group 16 patients versus 7 in the usual care group reported non-serious adverse events (P = .047).


Comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation had a positive effect on physical capacity compared with usual care, but not on mental health. Cardiac rehabilitation caused more non-serious adverse events.

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