Get Pumped Up With EECP
Julian Whitaker, MD
I’ve written quite a few articles about enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) over the years, but the results of several new studies—plus the remarkable improvements I see every week in Whitaker Wellness patients—have inspired me to revisit this often-overlooked therapy.
First, let me explain how EECP works. You lie on a table and compression cuffs are strapped around your legs, from ankles to thighs. You’re also hooked up to a heart monitor. Once treatment begins, the cuffs sequentially inflate and deflate in sync with your heartbeat, and your legs are rapidly and rhythmically squeezed from bottom to top. Sounds simple, and it is. But let me tell you, this is powerful stuff.
It’s not surprising that EECP increases blood flow throughout the body during treatment—all that squeezing dramatically boosts circulation. What is truly remarkable are EECP’s long-term benefits.
When patients with angina undergo a full course of 35 one-hour treatments, they often say goodbye to chest pain and are able to avoid angioplasty—and even bypass surgery.
Staves Off Heart Attacks and Deaths…
EECP does more than improve symptoms of serious heart disease. It also saves lives, according to a study presented at a recent American College of Cardiology meeting. Researchers from Stony Brook University in New York evaluated the records of 4,597 patients with end-stage heart disease who had undergone EECP. Now, these were sick people. Nine out of 10 had already had angioplasty or bypass surgery, and seven out of 10 had suffered heart attacks.
The researchers studied the outcomes of the patients who had finished their entire course of 35 EECP treatments and compared them with a control group of patients who had dropped out after an average of 13 treatments. (This was about 14 percent of the total.) The differences were striking. One year after treatment, 25 percent of the “noncompleters” had improvements in angina, 7.7 percent had had heart attacks, and 14.1 percent had died. Among the patients who completed an entire EECP course, 85 percent reported less angina, 4.1 percent had heart attacks, and only 4.1 percent died.
…And Improves Heart Function
Another condition that benefits from EECP is heart failure. Heart failure is a progressive weakening of the heart muscle. Whether it’s caused by a heart attack, virus, hypertension, or toxins, the heart eventually loses its ability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Fluid collects in the legs, breathing becomes labored, and energy goes down the drain. Patients with this condition have a poor prognosis—fewer than half are still alive five years after diagnosis.
An excellent noninvasive test for evaluating heart function is the echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to visualize the heart’s chambers, valves, overall size, and movement. One piece of info gleaned from an echocardiogram is ejection fraction (EF), a measure of the percentage of blood volume pumped out with each beat of the heart. A robust heart muscle ejects about half of its volume as it contracts, so a normal EF is 50 to 60 percent.
In another recent study, researchers evaluated the echocardiograms of 505 patients with heart disease performed before they started a 35-hour course of EECP and again within a week after completing treatment. The patients with the poorest EF before treatment—less than 35 percent—had the greatest improvements. Their EFs increased from an average pre-treatment score of 29 percent to as high as 45 percent post-therapy. Patients who had better initial heart function also saw improvements, going from a mean EF of 48 percent to 56 percent.
Serendipitous Benefits of EECP
More than 100 studies have been conducted on EECP, and most of them have demonstrated its effectiveness as a treatment for cardiovascular disease. However, we’ve seen so many unexpected benefits that we use it at the clinic for a number of other conditions. These include Parkinson’s disease, age-related memory loss, erectile dysfunction, neuropathy, and some forms of kidney disease.
How can one therapy produce such broad and enduring benefits? Because all of these conditions have one thing in common: poor circulation. EECP increases levels of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that dilates the arteries and revitalizes the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels. It also mobilizes endothelial stem cells from the bone marrow, which helps the body build new blood vessels. And once blood flow is normalized, healing begins.
If you are dealing with any of the conditions discussed in this article and you’ve resigned yourself to a lifetime of drugs or worse, do yourself a favor and check out EECP.
- To learn more about receiving EECP and other noninvasive treatments for heart disease at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (800) 488-1500.
- To locate other treatment facilities, call (800) 455-EECP or visit vasomedical.com.
- Heal Your Heart With EECP by Debra Braverman, MD, is a great read. It’s available in bookstores, online, or by calling (800) 810-6655.
- Jancin B. External counterpulsation reduces mortality. Internal Medicine News. 2008 May 15;41(10):30.
From Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.