External Counter Pulsation: Purpose, Preparation, Procedure & Lifestyle Changes

External counter pulsation is for patients suffering from chest pain or angina. The treatment has 80 percent success rate and effective if you are not comfortable with invasive and complicated surgeries.


People with heart problems opt for modern external counter pulsation (ECP) which is a noninvasive procedure that helps in the compression of blood vessels in their lower limbs to improve blood circulation in the coronary arteries of the heart. Your physician will wrap pressure cuffs around your thighs, calves and buttocks.Electrocardiography, computer technology and BP monitors facilitate the exact timing of the inflation and deflation of the cuffs with a patient’s BP and heartbeat.


Why Doctors Recommend it?

ECP is recommended by doctors because it helps in the restoration of blood circulation to the human heart as well as provides relief from angina (chest pain) and ischemia. This treatment is also recommended by doctors for those patients who are unfit for invasive procedures or complicated and risky bypass surgeries.

The primary goal of this noninvasive procedure is relieving the problems associated with coronary artery ailments so that patients are able to lead a normal lifestyle and lessen the risk of a cardiac arrest.


The Procedure

While a patient is lying on the bed, the leg cuffs are inflated and deflated with every heartbeat. With the help of modern computer technology, the cuffs’ compression is synchronized with the heartbeat and the electrocardiogram shows when each heartbeat starts. This in turn helps in prompting the cuffs to be automatically deflated.

Again, when each heartbeat ends, the pressure cuffs are automatically inflated in a sequential order, starting off with pressure cuffs on your legs and working up. The pressure created by the process of inflation, i.e. when a patient’s heart is resting, pushes the blood in a person’s leg up towards his heart. The deflation process that starts just as your heart begins beating lessens its work, pumping blood to other body parts.

ECP is an outpatient procedure and generally last for about 1-2 hours. If you are a patient of angina, the treatment would be repeated 5 times a week up to a period of 7 weeks to attain enhanced circulation.


How Would You Prepare for the Treatment?

You need to wear athletic tights or skin hugging cycling pants to avert chaffing. Prior to the procedure, a physician would measure and record your BP, weight, breathing rates and pulse. Your legs would be examined to look for signs of possible vascular problems or redness.

As a patient, you would be asked to record the symptoms during the treatment phase to understand whether the symptoms are improving over time. If there are problematic symptoms, you need to inform about the same to your doctor. You need to watch of the seriousness of these symptoms, the time they are more pronounced and the activities that have resulted in the occurrence of the problems. Records show that ECP has a success rate of 80 percent.


Changes in Lifestyle

Before or after the treatment, as a patient, you need to make significant changes in your lifestyle.

Watch out for weight gain; healthy weight can be maintained if you exercise on a regular basis. You can opt a for an exercise program that is tailored for heart patients and supervised by professionals. Smoking must be strictly avoided because the habit of consuming cigarettes would damage your blood vessels, increase BP, heartbeat and lessen the oxygen found in your blood.

Maintaining a healthy diet plan is also imperative. Include lots of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy food items and grains. Alcohol should be avoided or limited.

If you are plagued with chest pain or angina and not fit for complex or intrusive surgeries, you can consider external counter pulsation therapy.

Dr. Chane

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