Effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions on the secondary consequences of surviving a cardiac arrest: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Vicky L. Joshi*, Jan Christensen, Esben Lejsgaard, Rod S. Taylor, Ann Dorthe Zwisler, Lars H. Tang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


AIM: The aim of this systematic review was to assess the effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions on the secondary physical, neurological and psychological consequences of cardiac arrest (CA) for adult survivors.

METHODS: A literature search of electronic databases (MEDLINE, Allied and Complementary Medicine Database, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Excerpta Medica database, Psychological Information Database, Web of Science and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled trials) was conducted for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies up to 18 April 2021. The primary outcome was health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and main secondary outcome was neurological function with additional secondary outcomes being survival, rehospitalisation, safety (serious and non-serious adverse events), psychological well-being, fatigue, exercise capacity and physical capacity. Two authors independently screened studies for eligibility, extracted data and assessed risk of bias.

RESULTS: Three RCTs and 11 observational studies were included (total 721 participants). Study duration ranged from 8 weeks to 2 years. Pooled data from two RCTs showed low-quality evidence for no effect on physical HRQoL (standardised mean difference (SMD) 0.19, (95% CI: -0.09 to 0.47)) and no effect on mental HRQoL (SMD 0.27 (95% CI: -0.01 to 0.55)).Regarding secondary outcomes, very low-quality evidence was found for improvement in neurological function associated with inpatient rehabilitation for CA survivors with acquired brain injury (SMD 0.71, (95% CI: 0.45 to 0.96)) from five observational studies. Two small observational studies found exercise-based rehabilitation interventions to be safe for CA survivors, reporting no serious or non-serious events.

CONCLUSIONS: Given the overall low quality of evidence, this review cannot determine the effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions for CA survivors on HRQoL, neurological function or other included outcomes, and recommend further high-quality studies be conducted. In the interim, existing clinical guidelines on rehabilitation provision after CA should be followed to meet the high burden of secondary consequences suffered by CA survivors.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere047251
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Early online date2 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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