What is Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP)?

Angina is a condition where not enough blood reaches the heart muscles, causing chest pain. Although it can be treated surgically, some patients may not want or be able to have surgery. In these cases, a treatment called enhanced external counterpulsation or EECP is sometimes used.

EECP is a non-invasive procedure that uses pressure to move blood back towards the heart. Large cuffs, like blood pressure cuffs, are placed around the calves, thighs, and buttocks. The heart is monitored, and a computer times the cuffs to inflate in sync with the heartbeat. The system starts inflating at the bottom of the lower leg and squeezes up towards the heart, moving blood away from the legs and back to the chest. This increases the oxygen available to the heart, helping it heal. It also takes some of the workload off a damaged or weak heart. Over time, this strengthens the cardiovascular system and can even cause new blood vessels to grow.

EECP is not painful, but it requires a significant investment of time. Treatments are typically administered for one to two hours a day, five days a week, for up to twelve weeks. For those patients who need to avoid surgery, the time spent is well worth it, as EECP is an effective alternative.