Neuropsychological Functioning Among Cardiac Rehabilitation Patients


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Abstract

Purpose.The underlying pathophysiology contributing to coronary heart disease also predisposes patients to cerebrovascular disease and associated cognitive disorders. Although prior studies have focused on the neuropsychological sequelae of specific cardiac problems, few have examined the associated cognitive capacities and limitations of typical cardiac patients. The current study was designed to examine neuropsychological functioning among a sample of cardiac rehabilitation (CR) patients.Methods.Using neuropsychological instruments, patients were compared in a CR program to age-matched outpatient control subjects who had no known history of cardiac or neurologic disease. Cardiac rehabilitation patients were then divided into dichotomous subgroups based on whether they had undergone coronary artery bypass grafting, had experienced a myocardial infarction, had hypertension, or had impaired ejection fraction. Neuropsychological functioning was examined relative to each of these factors.Results.Cardiac rehabilitation patients had poorer neuropsychological test performance than did control subjects, with subtle relative deficits on measures of response generation, memory, and verbal abstraction, and particularly verbal fluency. Low ejection fraction, hypertension, and prior coronary artery bypass graft were associated with greater relative neuropsychological impairments.Conclusions.Although CR patients were not grossly neuropsychologically impaired as a group, it appears highly likely that many within a given program exhibit some degree of neuropsychological dysfunction. Including neuropsychological screening as part of pre-CR testing would help to identify such patients. This information may help staff to impart health care information in a manner that is most effective for the individual patient and may also be useful in the formation of realistic goals.

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