Background: Contrary to international practice, cardiac rehabilitation (CR) in Germany is predominantly offered as comprehensive inpatient treatment lasting for 3 weeks. Evidence for this kind of health care is poor, comprising observational cohort studies only. Methods: We conducted a systematic search for relevant German studies (1990–2004). International studies were selected from recent meta-analyses. Medium-term (12 month) results for blood lipids, blood pressure, functional capacity and psychological wellbeing, as well as cardiac morbidity and mortality are reported. Results: For most outcomes, effect sizes in national studies are poorer than those from international interventions or, in the case of blood pressure and depression, even poorer than international controls. Conclusions: Altogether, our analysis does not suggest that comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation treatment is superior to international practice of long-term outpatient rehabilitation.