Washington University School of Medicine Among Sites of new HFpEF Study

The National Institute of Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, recently awarded Wake Forest University School of Medicine a five-year grant expected to total $30 million to support research to test a novel rehabilitation program designed for older patients hospitalized for acute heart failure. Washington University School of Medicine/Barnes-Jewish Hospital will serve as one of the 20 sites for this important study.

HFpEF is the most common form of heart failure in older persons. Unfortunately, these frail patients have poor outcomes, and there are few proven treatments available. The Phase III REHAB-HFpEF trial will examine whether a novel physical rehabilitation intervention will reduce rehospitalizations and mortality in patients hospitalized for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). Ejection fraction refers to the contraction ability of the heart.

The REHAB-HF program was developed by a team of physical rehabilitation experts specifically for an older, frail adult population who have very poor physical function due to aging and chronic heart failure. Kitzman said these patients’ physical function is exacerbated by their hospital experience and bedrest, and the severe deficits often persist long after discharge, and without specialized help, patients often never recover fully.

The intervention program, which is individually tailored, involves strength, balance, endurance and mobility training exercises. The program is implemented as early in the hospital stay as possible and transitions to an outpatient facility for three sessions a week for 12 weeks and then continues with exercise at home.