Enhanced external counterpulsation or EECP is one of the treatments for chronic angina, that is slowly gaining popularity in the field but hasn’t found acceptance among cardiologists yet. Usually, it is the last option for an angina patient and is opted for when the patient runs out of all other ways. To understand whether EECP is suitable to treat chronic angina or not, we need to understand what EECP is and how it works.

What is EECP?

In EECP, a patient is fitted with blood pressure cuffs wrapped around their legs. The cuffs inflate and deflate with the heartbeat of the patient. This movement is monitored by a computer which takes reports from the ECG. The inflations occur sequentially so that the blood from the legs goes upward towards the heart. This continuous flow of blood eases the pumping process in the heart.

As of now, two advantages of EECP have been discovered. One, the action of the blood pressure cuffs helps with the blood flow in the coronary arteries. This is because, unlike other arteries, coronary arteries experience blood flow in the time between heartbeats.

Two, EECP is capable of creating a vacuum in the arteries- when the heart is about to start beating – which eases the workload of the heart muscle in pumping blood.

Usually, EECP is administered for one hour per day for five days each week. The aim is to give a total of 35 one-hour sessions to the patient so that the change in the circulatory system is permanent.

Is EECP Effective?

If studies are to be believed, EECP might be one of the most effective methods used for treating chronic angina. Small bouts of trial tests have shown that it helped ebbed chronic angina and also raised the tolerance level for the exercise of patients. Of course, it must be mentioned that the effect of EECP doesn’t last forever. Studies say that one entire session of EECP ensures improvement in chronic angina for almost up to 5 years.

How Does It Work?

No one knows exactly how EECP benefits us, only that it does. There are several speculations such as- the blood pumping treatment provides the same benefits as exercise does, and is thus suitable for people who can’t run. Others suggest that the stimulation it provides to the coronary artery leads to the formation of collateral vessels, which helps the cause.
Is there a disadvantage to EECP?
As EECP is an outpatient treatment, it doesn’t provide any kind of physical harm to the body. The method can be uncomfortable to sit through, but one doesn’t have to worry about being hurt. Most patients are capable of gritting their teeth and going through the process bravely.

However, everyone should not opt for EECP. For people with conditions such as aortic insufficiency, irregular heartbeat pattern, severe hypertension, peripheral artery disease or a very recent brush with cardiac catheterization, it’s a good idea to stay away from EECP. Anyone else is free to go for the procedure.

When Should one go for EECP?

The big question, in this case, is, when exactly should one brave their chances with EECP? From what is known, EECP should only be used on people who have gone through all other options for treating chronic angina and still continue to suffer from it. People who can’t have bypass surgeries due to medical conditions can also opt for this procedure. Medicare has deemed it safe to approve EECP for people who have already tried all the other options.

It was in 2014 that some professional organizations came to the agreement that EECP is for people who have no other option left.

Why Is EECP Usually Ignored?

If EECP is as effective as suggested, why is it not generally preferred by the medical community, you may ask? The cardiology community has ignored it to the point that a lot of the times, it isn’t even professed as an option by the doctor. For this reason, some people who suffer from chronic angina have never even heard of this treatment.

Well, answer to it is the unconventional nature of EECP. It looks nothing like other cardiological treatments, and as stated before, no one knows how to explain its effect on the patient. From a cardiologist’s perspective, it’s also an unnecessarily long procedure compared to a 30 minutes operation To prefer EECP when there are other options in the field screams ignorance. That’s why EECP is the last method used by anyone.

Why Must EECP be Considered as a Treatment Option?

However, it can’t be denied that EECP is a better method from the patient’s point of view. They don’t have to lie on the operation table, and they can clearly state whether the EECP is working on them depending on how many of their symptoms have lessened. It might be worth considering EECP before opting for invasive treatment methods.

If you are a patient of chronic angina or know someone who is suffering from it, you might want to talk to your doctor about EECP treatment. You don’t need to opt for it, but it’s good to know and discuss all your options in length.