External Counterpulsation Therapy is commonly referred to as ECP heart care. This treatment is non-invasive and reduces the intensity and number of angina episodes. During the treatment, three electrodes are connected to an electrocardiograph and placed on your chest. This displays the rhythm of your heart. Cuffs are wrapped around your buttocks, thighs and calves and attached to air hoses. The cuffs are deflated and inflated with valves connected to the hoses. You will feel a hugging sensation when the cuffs are inflating. Everything is timed to your blood pressure and heartbeat.
Your treatment will last for seven weeks. You will most likely have a one-hour treatment five days per week. Enhanced external counterpulsation often becomes an option if other treatments were not right for your situation or if they failed. This treatment makes a natural bypass using your blood vessels around the blocked or narrowed arteries causing your chest pain. The treatment will increase the blood flow to your heart. This brings more oxygen to any starved areas. Your heart is more efficient when more oxygen is available. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis.
The History of External Counterpulsation Therapy
External Counterpulsation Therapy started in China during the 1960’s and has been used extensively. During the last decade, the treatment has been used in the United States. Currently, there are approximately 1,200 machines being used for this treatment. The idea for ECP heart care originated when the IABP or the intra-aortic balloon pump was first developed. The IABP inflated a balloon between every heartbeat in the aorta. This enabled more blood to be pumped from the heart. Once the aorta has been opened, the blood flow will increase. This means the heart does not have to work as hard. This is the same theory that was applied to External Counterpulsation Therapy.
The benefits of External Counterpulsation Therapy include:
- Increased oxygen to the heart
- Increased energy
- Increased exercise duration
- A reduction in chest pain
- Improved EKG response regarding exercising
- Decreased nitroglycerin use
- The effects last a maximum of two years
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