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ECP (External Cardiac Counter Pulsation)

What is ECP

External counterpulsation (ECP) is a noninvasive technique to increase oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart and to reduce the heart’s workload. ECP lowers the amount of work the heart has to do by lowering blood pressure and increasing the rate of blood returned to the heart. Since it is also noninvasive, this means that there is no anesthesia required and the procedure is relatively painless. ECP is simply a natural way of helping your heart perform its normal functions by also balancing the amount of oxygen your heart needs and the amount it receives. Overall, the procedure alleviates pain from angina and thereby decreases the need for medication.

How is it done?

ECP is done over the course of several weeks, with 60-minute sessions. Three pressure cuffs are placed around the calves, lower thighs, and upper thighs/buttocks. A pressure monitor and electrocardiogram are used to time the inflating and deflating of these cuffs. During inflation, the cuffs inflate sequentially, going from the calves, to the lower thighs, and then to the upper thighs/buttocks. The vessels and capillary beds in the legs are compressed gently, and blood flows to the heart.

Who needs ECP

ECP is used to decrease pain from angina pectoris which is essentially chest pain or discomfort. This happens when the heart muscles do not get enough blood and oxygen for the amount of work they are performing. In addition, it should be used to:

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