Improving blood flow without surgery or medications may seem impossible, but a unique outpatient therapy called Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP) is proving effective. It is an option for some patients with unrelieved chest pain caused by angina.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
EECP is a non-invasive therapy provided on an outpatient basis that does not require the use of any medications.
More than 7 million people in the U.S. are estimated to suffer from angina according to the American Heart Association. These patients suffer from ischemia, which means that there is a restriction in the blood supply to body tissues. This causes a shortage of oxygen, and EECP therapy can help.
What Exactly Is EECP?
Enhanced External Counterpulsation is an outpatient therapy that mechanically increases blood flow to improve chest pain symptoms and quality of life.
While undergoing EECP, the patient lies on a comfortable table and is strapped with treatment cuffs that inflate along the legs from the calves to the thighs and buttocks. This external pulsation helps to increase blood supply to the heart muscle and decrease the amount of work it has to do. Throughout the procedure, heart rate and rhythm are monitored to make sure the patient is responding well.
Studies using stress tests have shown that EECP relieves angina and the degree to which a person suffers from ischemia. This non-invasive therapy is provided on an outpatient basis and does not require the use of any medications.
Limitations of EECP
Cleveland Clinic’s Stephen Ellis, MD, section head of Interventional Cardiology, says there are still many reasons that medication and surgical interventions remain the gold standard in heart treatment.
“EECP is not for everyone,” he says. “Some arrhythmias and other cardiovascular conditions preclude EECP, and it takes several treatments to see lasting results—so, the time commitment is great.”
He adds that about half of patients who try EECP relapse after one or two years. In addition, the treatments are not always covered by insurance.
“For some patients, it may be a good option,” says Dr. Ellis, “especially for those who are intolerant of medications or who suffer from persistent angina.”
Is EECP right for you?
The decision to try EECP begins with talking to your physician. EECP has been shown to help patients who:
- Are no longer getting relief from the use of medications.
- Have returning symptoms after heart surgery and interventions.
- Have other health concerns that disqualify them for another procedure.
Learn more about EECP therapy offered at Cleveland Clinic
Image of TS3 EECP® Therapy System compliments of Vasomedical.