You start to sweat and find it difficult to catch your breath. The pain in your chest spreads to your shoulders, arms, neck and back. It has happened before...in fact, all too often. You may be suffering from chronic, life-limiting angina.
A noninvasive procedure at Gundersen Health System, called Expanded External Counter Pulsation (EECP), may offer relief. Patients who have had the procedure report a significant improvement in their ability to perform daily activities with little or no angina.
Angina occurs when heart muscles don’t get enough blood and oxygen to maintain proper pumping action, usually due to blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Angina is most evident during physical activity when the heart pumps faster and needs more oxygen.
Good candidates for EECP:
- Have chronic angina
- Have gotten all the benefit he can from available medications
- Are unable to be treated with bypass surgery or angioplasty
The benefits of EECP include:
- Improved cardiac function due to enhanced blood flow to the heart and coronary arteries, and reduced workload on the heart muscle
- Stimulating the growth of new blood vessels around blocked arteries and improved function of existing blood vessels
- Reduced frequency and intensity of chest pain, thus reducing the need for angina medications
- Improved capacity for exercise and daily activities
- Improved quality of life
How does EECP work?
EECP treatments are given during one-hour sessions, five days each week for seven consecutive weeks. EECP treatments are done as an outpatient procedure, do not require incisions or anesthesia, and most patients find it relatively comfortable.
During EECP treatments, compression cuffs inside special pants inflate and deflate in sequence around the patient’s calves, thighs and buttocks in a wave-like motion. Using an electrocardiogram and computer, each wave of pressure is timed to the patient’s heartbeats. When the heart contracts, the pants rapidly deflate drawing blood out of the heart. The heart’s efficiency improves because it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood to your body. Then, when the heart relaxes the air chambers inflate, increasing blood flow to the heart muscle. Most patients have no trouble tolerating the procedure.
For best results, it’s critical follow a healthy, active lifestyle and regular, consistent exercise after the EECP treatments are completed.