EECP Therapy for Chronic Stable Angina

Patients with chronic stable angina that is unresponsive to medical therapy may benefit from a relatively new treatment called enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP therapy). EECP therapy is a noninvasive outpatient procedure that can be performed in a physician's office. It usually is administered during 35 treatment hours, divided into one or two 60-minute treatment sessions per day, 5 days per week.

During this treatment, the patient lies on a padded table and adjustable cuffs are wrapped firmly around the calves, lower thighs, and upper thighs. These cuffs are connected to inflation and deflation valves that are controlled by an electrocardiogram. When the heart rests, the cuffs are inflated sequentially and rapidly from the lower leg to the upper leg and then are deflated just before the heart beats. This results in an increased blood supply to the heart while reducing its workload.

EECP therapy can reduce the symptoms of angina, decrease the need for medication, and improve the patient's quality of life. After treatment, many patients are able to exercise moderately for the first time since developing angina. In most cases, it takes 4 to 7 weeks of therapy to complete one course of EECP treatment. Patients with extensive heart disease may require more than one course to achieve desired results. Side effects of EECP therapy include minor skin irritation from the cuffs that are used and fatigue after the first sessions.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jul 2000

Last Modified: 28 Aug 2015