External Counterpulsation (ECP) Therapy

For many patients, bypass surgery and stents have not relieved chest pain and other debilitating heart conditions.  For some, another surgery is not an option; so many people continue to suffer with chest pain, congestive heart failure, or other heart related conditions.  There is another alternative out there that may just be the answer.  External counterpulsation therapy is a therapy that has been around for many years.   ECP was approved by the FDA in the 1990’s and was then approved in 1999 by Medicare.  ECP is a safe alternative that is low risk and is a non-evasive procedure.  ECP uses air pressure cuffs that gently inflate and deflate with each heartbeat to send fresh blood to the heart muscle.  This increases the amount of oxygen the heart receives and helps reduce chest pain and improve energy and well-being.  Many patients have gained a greater quality of life with an improved tolerance to exercise and the ability to participate in many outdoor activities that they weren’t able to perform in before the ECP therapy.

ECP may benefit those patients who are not a candidate for surgery or have already undergone the surgery but are still having chest pain or angina equivalent cardiac symptoms.  In some cases, ECP may not be recommended for some patients, for example, those patients who have:

  • abdominal aortic aneurysms
  • a history of deep vein thrombophlebitis (deep vein inflammation associated with a blood clot)
  • severe valvular disease
  • severe peripheral vascular disease
  • patients with recent surgery
  • uncontrolled arrhythmias
  • certain types of pacemakers which require careful consideration and management

Benefits of ECP therapy can usually be felt between 10 and 14 treatments.  The full course treatment includes 35 one hour sessions attended 5 days per week for seven weeks. 

Studies suggest that up to 80% of patients report significant improvement after receiving a full course of ECP therapy.  Some patients report no longer having chest pain, more energy and stamina and better overall quality of life.

ECP is safe, effective, and best of all it does not include the risk or the complications of surgery.  If you would like more information about ECP therapy, you can ask your doctor or call Wooster Community Hospital’s Heart Center at 330-263-8282.

Coordinator, Cardiac Rehabilitation