External Counter Pulsation

External counter pulsation (ECP) is a noninvasive procedure used to help stimulate the growth of new blood vessels in the heart and improve the flow of existing blood vessels. This treatment is commonly performed on individuals with coronary artery disease or angina. ECP therapy may be considered when other treatments for heart problems have not been effective.

ECP is performed on an outpatient basis and usually takes about one hour. The patient lies on an examination table and cuffs are attached to the calves and lower and upper thighs. The cuffs are attached to a monitor that allows the doctor to make pressure adjustments based on the results of an electrocardiogram that measures heart rhythm. The cuffs consecutively inflate and deflate, starting with the calves, followed by the lower thighs, and ending with the upper thighs The cuffs deflate as the heart starts another beat, methodically returning blood back the heart on each heart cycle. Because ECP increases the pressure of the blood flowing through the aorta while the heart is at rest, the heart receives extra oxygen-enriched blood. ECP treatment regimens are usually given for an hour each day, five days a week, for a total of 35 hours.

Patients may feel fatigued after the initial treatment, but as the treatments progress, they often experience an increase in stamina and energy. Symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath may also decrease. This treatment is effective in promoting growth of new vessels around narrowed and blocked arteries of the heart, resulting in restored blood flow of oxygenated blood to the heart.

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