Cabbage, Heart Disease & Return to Work

Trent Seth 23 September, 2020

With World Heart Day 2020 being held on September 29, let’s take a look at a systematic review (high quality study) that assesses the different interventions to support return to work (RTW) for employees following acute events from heart disease.

Typically, the best approach to any form of heart disease is prevention, but until we are doing much better in this realm, we need to look at how to best return employees to work after heart surgeries.

People with coronary heart disease (CHD) typically need prolonged breaks from work to recover after acute events like a heart attack or revascularisation procedures. These procedures include coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG aka ‘cabbage’) or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).

The review found cardiac rehabilitation programs, including both exercise and counselling components, shortens the time needed to RTW and may increase the number of patients who RTW in the first 6 months after a heart attack, bypass or stent. Whereas, programs comprising only of counselling or exercise may make little to no difference in the number of patients returning to work or in the time needed to RTW.

The review also highlighted that no studies were found where changes were made to the workplace or workplace policies to ease RTW. For example, by reducing patients’ working hours or tasks, and gradually increasing the working hours and tasks as health improves. This is also among the recommendations of future studies listed by the review.

Workplaces are well positioned to support their employees with a safe RTW following acute responses to CHD and to also assist in preventing this disease or future acute heart events. Having a health professional onsite, such as the physiotherapists in the Employ Health – Health Hub, assists by:
- guiding the workplace in creating appropriate policies and tasks for their worker,
- making recommendations on work modifications,
- training the worker in their ongoing rehabilitation, and
- moving the worker into a proactive and preventative phase.


Hegewald  J, Wegewitz  UE, Euler  U, van Dijk  JL, Adams  J, Fishta  A, Heinrich  P, Seidler  A. Interventions to support return to work for people with coronary heart disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2019, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD010748. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010748.pub2.