Therapy offers new hope for chronic chest pain

A one-year old Mayo Clinic outpatient treatment program reports success in treating patients with chronic angina who are not candidates for bypass surgery or balloon angioplasty. Treatment in the EECP program consists of 35 one-hour sessions over the course of seven weeks on a Monday through Friday regimen.

During therapy, the patient lies on a bed and pressure cuffs are attached to the calves, lower thighs and upper thighs. The patient’s heart rate and rhythm are constantly measured during the process. The cuffs inflate and deflate, gradually building to full pressure while the machine works with the heart’s rhythms.

Most of the 21 patients who have received enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) treatment in the past year report improved exercise tolerance and better lifestyles following the treatment. In the past, there were few therapeutic options for such patients, at least in North America. EECP has been used internationally as a treatment for angina for two decades

"Until recently, there was not much to offer these patients with severe symptoms of heart disease who have exhausted the more standard revascularization options," says Dr. Gregory BarsnessM.D., medical director of the EECP program at Mayo Clinic. "External counterpulsation is unique among new treatments, since it is non-invasive. No surgery or needles are required. So far, we are pleased with the benefits that our patients have experienced."

Researchers say that test data indicates that EECP treatment may promote the growth of new blood vessels in the heart and improve blood flow to areas that are not getting enough blood and oxygen. This improved blood flow decreases chest pain symptoms.