Desert Cardiology of Tucson

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Cardiac Tests and Procedures
Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP)

EECP is an office procedure that uses pressure cuffs to move the blood from your lower limbs toward the heart in synchronized waves. The increased flow is delivered to the heart when the blood flow through the coronary vessels is at its peak. This permits blood to be pumped more easily from the heart.

Medical literature and data suggests that EECP drastically reduces the symptoms of inadequate blood flow to the heart (angina), presumably by increasing coronary blood flow to areas of the heart with insufficient flow. It may also stimulate the opening or formation of collaterals (new blood vessels to areas with inadequate flow) to create a natural bypass around narrowed or blocked arteries. The beneficial effects of EECP in patients with coronary artery disease appear to be sustained between treatments and may persist long after completion of a course of therapy. Typical benefits for patients might include a decrease in chest pain, reduction in the use of medication and the ability to enjoy a more independently mobile and active lifestyle.

Patients who are accepted for treatment usually undergo 35 hours of EECP therapy. Treatment is administered 1-2 hours a day, five days a week for 7 weeks.

The procedure is used to:

  1. Decrease the need for anti-anginal medication
  2. Decrease in symptoms of angina
  3. Increased ability to do activities without onset of symptoms
  4. Ability to return to enjoyable activities

Preparing for the test:

You will not be required to make any changes to your diet or medications.

On the first session you will be provided with a pair of nylon pants which you will be asked to wear during every treatment. If you are diabetic, you will need to wear silk stockings to reduce the chance of skin damage from the friction of the pressure cuffs.

What to expect during the procedure:

EECP is a non-invasive, outpatient therapy. During treatment, patients lie down on a padded table in a treatment room. Three electrodes are applied to the skin of the chest and connected to an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine. The ECG displays the heart’s rhythm, and blood pressure is monitored during treatment. A set of cuffs is wrapped around the calves, thighs and buttocks. These cuffs attach to air hoses that connect to valves that inflate and deflate the cuffs. Patients experience a sensation of a strong “hug” moving upward from calves to thighs to buttocks during inflation, followed by the rapid release of pressure on deflation. Inflation and deflation are electronically synchronized with the heartbeat and blood pressure using the ECG and blood pressure monitors.

The EECP treatment gently—but firmly—compresses the blood vessels in the lower limbs to increase blood flow to your heart. Each wave of pressure is electronically timed to the heartbeat, so that the increased blood flow is delivered to your heart at the precise moment it is relaxing. When the heart pumps again, pressure is released instantaneously. This lowers resistance in the blood vessels in the legs so that blood may be pumped more easily from your heart.

What to expect after the procedure:

Patients begin to feel benefits between the first and second week of treatment. Most patients report the ability to walk farther and breathe more easily.

  Desert Cardiology of Tucson
6080 N. La Cholla Blvd, Suite 200
Tucson, AZ 85741
(520) 797-8550
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