Treating COVID-19 Long Haulers with EECP

A man wearing a surgical mask in front of a brick wall.
Written by: Josh Power

EECP may play a role in managing ‘long COVID’ and post-COVID-19 symptoms.

What is Long COVID?

Long COVID is when patients have persistent symptoms for weeks, up to 9 months after testing positive for COVID-19. This population is generally termed as “COVID-19 Long Haulers,” suffering from “long COVID-19” or having “post-COVID Sequalae.” These individuals report non-specific symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, depression, and “brain fog,” among several other symptoms that vary from person to person. Dr. Fauci discussed this and the need for more research at the COVID-19 briefing held on February 24, 2021.

How Many People are Affected by Long COVID? 

In the US, the CDC interviewed 292 COVID-19 positive patients and found that 57% continued to have one or more symptoms 14 – 21 days after initial testing. In another study from Wuhan, China, 1733 COVID-19 patients were interviewed, and more than 75% continued to have at least one symptom 6 months after hospital discharge.

Most Common Long COVID Symptoms

Keep Reading: The 5 most commong Long COVID symptoms

Can Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP) Help Treat COVID-19 Symptoms?

EECP may play a role in managing post-COVID-19 symptoms. In an analysis of over 1500 cardiac patients from Flow Therapy’s specialized EECP centers, fatigue was reduced by 36% (PROMIS Fatigue Score) and breathing difficulties by 50% (ROSE Dyspnea Score). Other benefits in functional capacity have also been demonstrated after a full course of EECP.

EECP is a non-invasive treatment that improves blood flow to your heart and throughout the body by applying blood pressure like cuffs on your lower extremities. EECP therapy is typically used to manage patients with heart disease but has shown promise in treating other conditions such as erectile dysfunction, restless leg syndrome, and more. Learn more about EECP and Flow Therapy here.

This article describes the novel use of Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP) by Flow Therapy to manage a patient with long-term post-COVID-19 symptoms.

LC is a 38-year-old female with no pre-existing health conditions who tested positive for COVID-19, using both the COVID-19 rapid antigen test and rapid COVID-19 PCR test. The predominant symptoms in her acute phase were noted as fatigue, headache, and body pain. She also experienced shortness of breath which started approximately 8 days after her diagnosis.

After the majority of her symptoms were resolved, she observed that her fatigue had lasted approximately 3 weeks, with headaches coming and going during the same time frame. The body pain took roughly 4 weeks to resolve, and she experienced random shortness of breath while at rest and during activities for months beyond the acute phase of the illness.

After the resolution of her primary symptoms (other than shortness of breath), she also noted the presence of “brain fog,” as if lacking the same clarity of thought she had prior to her illness.

Keep Reading: See how Long COVID can impact your heart health

How EECP Treated Long COVID Symptoms

Due to the symptoms persisting over 3 months, the patient underwent standard EECP treatment for 1-hour sessions, 3 times per week. After 1 week, the brain fog had improved with shortness of breath improving at approximately 1.5 weeks. LC reported returning to pre-COVID health and fitness after approximately 5 weeks of EECP treatment.

 To our knowledge, this is the first case of using EECP for post-COVID-19 shortness of breath, fatigue, and “brain fog. EECP has been used for decades for the management of patients with certain types of heart disease. Furthermore, EECP has been shown to improve the health of the blood vessels in the body. Since the SARS-CoV-2 virus impairs this pathway in blood vessels, it is plausible that EECP may play a significant role in the management of post-COVID symptoms.

Authors: Ann Teal, PA-C & Joshua Kyle Dayrit, BS, PharmD Candidate

DISCLAIMER: This information is accurate as of March 3rd 2021. This is not medical advice and you should speak to your doctor before making any decisions about your health. We thank the willingness of the individual mentioned above to let us describe their case for the benefit of others.