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New EECP Technology Helps Heart Failure Patients

MeritCare is pleased to offer an innovative treatment to patients with heart disease called Enhanced External Coupterpulsation (EECP). Patients who benefit from the treatment are those who continue to have angina (chest pain) after other options of treatment, such as surgery, placement of stents, and maximal medical therapy have been exhausted. Patients with angina experience chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. Daily tasks such as climbing a flight of stairs, walking a dog or mowing the lawn become impossible without experiencing chest pain. Patients often have to use multiple doses of nitroglycerin to control their pain doing normal activities.

MeritCare is pleased to offer an innovative treatment to patients with heart disease called Enhanced External Coupterpulsation (EECP). Patients who benefit from the treatment are those who continue to have angina (chest pain) after other options of treatment, such as surgery, placement of stents, and maximal medical therapy have been exhausted. Patients with angina experience chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. Daily tasks such as climbing a flight of stairs, walking a dog or mowing the lawn become impossible without experiencing chest pain. Patients often have to use multiple doses of nitroglycerin to control their pain doing normal activities.

EECP is non-invasive procedure in which long inflatable cuffs (like blood pressure cuffs) are wrapped around both of the patient's legs. While the patient lies on a bed, the leg cuffs are inflated and deflated with each heartbeat. This is accomplished by means of a computer, which triggers off the patient's electrocardiogram (ECG) so that the cuffs deflate just as each heartbeat begins, and inflate just as each heartbeat ends. When the cuffs inflate they do so in a sequential fashion, so that the blood in the legs is "milked" upwards, toward the heart.

EECP has two potentially beneficial actions on the heart. First, the milking action of the leg cuffs increases the blood flow to the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries, unlike other arteries in the body, receive their blood flow after each heartbeat instead of during each heartbeat. EECP, effectively, "pumps" blood into the coronary arteries. Second, by its deflating action just as the heart begins to beat, EECP creates something like a sudden vacuum in the arteries, which reduces the work of the heart muscle in pumping blood into the arteries.

EECP is administered as a series of outpatient treatments. Patients receive five one-hour sessions per week, for seven weeks, for a total of 35 sessions. The 35 one-hour sessions are aimed at provoking long lasting beneficial changes in the circulatory system.