External CounterPulsation, known as ECP for short, is a non-invasive treatment for angina. It is available at our office in Gainesville. In this outpatient procedure, air cuffs, similar to the ones used to measure blood pressure, are wrapped in various places around the legs. Electrodes are applied to the chest to track heart activity. While the patient relaxes, the cuffs are inflated and deflated in response to heart activity to help force blood out of the legs and back to the heart. The intent of the treatment is to induce the heart to develop new capillaries around the blocked ones.
What is Angina?
Angina is an unpleasant squeezing, painful sensation in the chest caused by the heart not receiving enough oxygen during exertion due to multiple blocked blood vessels. Stable angina is very common in older people. It is not life-threatening, but it can impair a person’s ability to perform exercises, climb stairs, walk, and do other essential activities. Some cases of stable angina can be treated with lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and dietary changes, and medications can help some people. However, some individuals in Gainesville do not respond to these treatments.
How Does ECP Work?
During ECP heartcare treatment, inflation of the cuffs around the legs helps to push blood back into the heart. The increased blood flow into the heart can force capillaries to open up and can even induce the growth of new capillaries to supply the heart muscle with new sources of oxygen.
The treatment itself does not involve much discomfort. In fact, the squeezing of the cuffs has been likened to being hugged, and many people actually enjoy the treatments, reporting they are pleasant, relaxing, and similar to getting a massage. There are no known side effects.
A Closer Look at the Treatment Regimen
Our doctor in Gainesville typically prescribes a course of ECP treatments that takes a set amount of time to complete. Thus, this treatment does require a significant time commitment. It is important to note that unstable angina is a life-threatening emergency, and any sudden onset of abnormal chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes, even in people diagnosed with stable angina, should also be considered a life-threatening emergency that needs to be immediately evaluated in the closest emergency room.