A promising development in the field of cardiovascular treatment is the development of Non-Invasive Cardiovascular Technology, particularly EECP (Enhanced External Counterpulsation). The technique stimulates the formation of new blood vessels to create natural bypass around narrowed or blocked arteries.

What is EECP?

EECP is a non-invasive treatment for patients who are suffering from chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, pain in the jaw or back or fullness in the chest; all are possible signs of angina. EECP treatment can reduce or eliminate the frequency and intensity of chest pain, decrease the need for medication, and greatly improve the ability to participate in activities of daily living. After receiving EECP treatment, patients often are able to enjoy moderate exercise for the first time since developing angina.

History of EECP

Invented in Boston in the late 1960s, EECP was effective in treating cardiogenic shock, or severe heart failure due to heart muscle damage, a condition that was otherwise almost uniformly fatal. The technique, however, was cumbersome, and fell out of favor while more intricate and expensive procedures such as cardiac bypass surgery came into use. Researchers in mainland China during the 1980s improved the technology and effectively treated patients with heart disease, stroke, circulatory disorders and many other diseases.

In 1990 a brilliant physiologist named Dr. John Hui brought the technology to the United States, and persuaded physicians at a hospital in New York to begin research. EECP proved so effective in reducing angina symptoms that the FDA approved it for the treatment of angina and cardiogenic shock. Today, insurance including Medicare reimburse for treatment.

What does it do?

Unique equipment is used in EECP treatment for inflating and deflating a series of pneumatic compressive cuffs. The patient lies down on a padded table where three sets of electronically controlled inflation and deflation valves are connected to adjustable cuffs wrapped around the patient’s calves, lower thighs and upper thighs. The design facilitates application of significant pressure to the arteries and veins. Electrocardiogram signals are run through a microprocessor which monitors the treatment, controlling the timing for inflation and deflation.

The EECP system compresses the lower part of body to increase blood flow towards the heart. The mechanism times each wave of pressure to the heartbeat, escalating blood flow delivered to the heart at the precise moment it is relaxing. The pressure would release instantaneously when the heart pumps again, lowering resistance in the blood vessels of the legs, allowing flow of blood more easily from the heart. Work required for the heart muscle is significantly decreased.

The standard EECP treatment protocol consists of one-hour session per day, five days a week, for seven consecutive weeks, for a total of 35 treatment sessions. The overall effect of EECP treatment is to increase the oxygen supply of the heart, while reducing the oxygen demand, and the treatment carries little or no risk.

Are there any other benefits to EECP treatment?

Because it boosts circulation throughout the body, EECP is a general panacea. It is perhaps the most potent anti-aging therapy. It could be considered in any program to support individual well-being.

There are numerous other benefits. EECP is like adding a second heart to the body. Increased blood flow occurs in the brain, kidneys, intestines, and all other parts of the body. Complex hormonal interactions are stimulated, resulting in improved kidney function, lowering of blood pressure, increased energy, endurance, and sense of well-being. Patients with stroke have experienced much quicker improvement than would otherwise occur.

Medications used for treating chest pain as well as high blood pressure may be reduced and sometimes completely eliminated. EECP is also effective in boosting athletic performance, providing a complete, passive cardiovascular workout, reducing lactic acid buildup, and increasing blood and lymph flow in muscles.

How safe is it?

EECP was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1995 for the treatment of coronary artery disease (CAD) patients suffering from refractory angina pectoris which does not respond to aggressive pharmacotherapy and standard revascularization procedures. The procedure effectively reduces nitrate usage and angina episodes, while boosting exercise tolerance. The procedure constitutes of 35 sessions, which effectively increase myocardial oxygen supply, diminishing myocardial oxygen requirements.