This post is an excerpt from an article originally published in 2007 by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Click the link at the bottom to read the full article.
Enhanced external counterpulsation and future directions: step beyond medical management for patients with angina and heart failure
Between 25,000 and 75,000 new cases of angina refractory to maximal medical therapy and standard coronary revascularization procedures are diagnosed each year.
In addition, heart failure also places an enormous burden on the U.S. health care system, with an estimated economic impact ranging from $20 billion to more than $50 billion per year. The technique of counterpulsation, studied for almost one-half century now, is considered a safe, highly beneficial, low-cost, noninvasive treatment for these angina patients, and now for heart failure patients as well. Recent evidence suggests that enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) therapy may improve symptoms and decrease long-term morbidity via more than 1 mechanism, including improvement in endothelial function, promotion of collateralization, enhancement of ventricular function, improvement in oxygen consumption (VO2), regression of atherosclerosis, and peripheral training effects similar to exercise. Numerous clinical trials in the last 2 decades have shown EECP therapy to be safe and effective for patients with refractory angina with a clinical response rate averaging 70% to 80%, which is sustained up to 5 years. It is not only safe in patients with coexisting heart failure, but also is shown to improve quality of life and exercise capacity and to improve left ventricular function long-term. Interestingly, EECP therapy has been studied for various potential uses other than heart disease, such as restless leg syndrome, sudden deafness, hepatorenal syndrome, erectile dysfunction, and so on. This review summarizes the current evidence for its use in stable angina and heart failure and its future directions.