Pediatric Cardiac Rehabilitation: a Review

  • Unoma AkamagwunaEmail author
  • Daryaneh Badaly
Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine (A Houtrow and M Fuentes, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine


Purpose of Review

In addition to concerns with physical health and activity levels, children with cardiac conditions can be at risk of neurodevelopmental and socioemotional maladjustment. Children with congenital heart defects requiring surgery early in life are at risk of developmental delays and cognitive impairments, and both children with congenital heart defects and those with cardiomyopathies are at risk of socioemotional concerns. As a result, there is an increasing focus on rehabilitation efforts for these patients, in order to improve both their physical well-being and their adjustment outcomes. However, there are no established standards for rehabilitation programs applicable across children with cardiac conditions, in stark contrast to guidelines for adult patients. The purpose of the present review is to summarize recent studies on pediatric cardiac rehabilitation and describe the structure of our own program, in order to aid with the delineation of future guidelines.

Recent Findings

Twenty programs for pediatric cardiac rehabilitation were identified and reviewed. We review inpatient, outpatient, and home-based programs, most of which include two to three sessions of exercise training per week for 12 weeks with a focus on improving exercise capacity. We also review emerging cognitive rehabilitation for children with cardiac disorders and discuss a newly developed program at our own institution.


A review of past findings, along with recent efforts at our institution, suggests that a structured cardiac rehabilitation program can benefit children by increasing exercise response and physical activity as well as improving developmental, cognitive, and psychosocial outcomes.


Pediatric cardiac rehabilitation Congenital heart defects Cardiomyopathies Heart transplantation Neurodevelopmental outcomes Socioemotional adjustment 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Learning and Development CenterChild Mind InstituteNew YorkUSA

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