Frequently Asked Questions

What does ECP and EECP stand for?

ECP is an acronym for External Counter Pulsation while EECP is an acronym for Enhanced External Counter Pulsation. Both are the same treatment.

What is ECP?

ECP is a non-invasive, outpatient treatment for heart disease that is used to relieve or eliminate angina. During the treatment, blood pressure cuffs are wrapped around your legs, and squeeze and release in sync with your heartbeat, promoting blood flow throughout your body and particularly to your heart. In the process, ECP develops new pathways around blocked arteries in the heart by expanding networks of tiny blood vessels (“collaterals”) that help increase and increase blood flow to the heart muscle. For this reason, it is often called the natural bypass.

Is ECP FDA-approved? What kind of research has been done on it?

ECP was approved by the FDA in 1995 as a treatment for coronary artery disease and angina, cardiogenic shock, and for use during a heart attack. In 2002, the FDA approved ECP as a treatment for congestive heart failure. It has undergone rigorous clinical trials at leading universities around the country and ECP has been the subject of more than 200 scientific studies published in leading medical journals throughout the world.

What are the advantages of ECP?

Unlike bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty, and stenting procedures, ECP is non-invasive, carries no risk, is comfortable, and is administered in outpatient sessions.

Are there any risks or side effects of ECP?

ECP is safe. Occasionally, some patients experience mild skin irritation under the areas of the blood pressure cuffs. Some patients experience a bit more fatigue at the beginning of their course of treatment, but it usually subsides after the first few sessions. It is due to passive exercise to muscle. In fact, patients typically feel energized by ECP and effort tolerance gradually improves.

How long does ECP take?

The standard course of treatment is one hour per day, five days per week, for seven weeks (a total of 35 one-hour sessions). Some patients have two treatments in one day in order to complete the program more quickly. Some patients extend the program beyond 35 treatments, depending on their particular medical situation and goals.

When can I expect to start feeling better from ECP?

Most patients begin to experience beneficial results from ECP between their 15th and 25th treatments. These benefits include increased stamina, improved sleeping patterns, decreased angina, and less reliance on nitroglycerin and other medications. There is variation, certainly, and some patients start to feel better as soon as their first week of treatment!

What happens if I miss a treatment?

Missing a day will not have a negative effect on your overall results. When you come back, you will simply pick up where you left off, and the missed treatment will be added to the end of your program until you have a total of 35 sessions. Just like exercise, the more consistent you are with your ECP schedule, the better your results will be.

What does ECP feel like?

ECP feels like a deep muscle massage to your legs. During the treatment, you do not feel anything in the chest or heart. You only feel the cuffs that are wrapped around your legs squeezing in time to your own heartbeat. Most of the patients relax, listen to music, or read during their treatments. Some even sleep!

Do the benefits of ECP last?

Yes. In patients followed for three to five years after treatment, the benefits of ECP, including less angina, less nitroglycerin usage, good effort tolerance or exercise and improved blood flow patterns documented on stress tests, had lasted.

How does ECP compare to angioplasty or bypass surgery?

The five-year outcomes for ECP patients are virtually the same as for angioplasty and bypass surgery patients.

Does insurance pay for ECP?

ECP is covered by Medicare and paid for by private insurance carriers in USA. In Malaysia, you have to discuss with your insurance company.

I have congestive heart failure (CHF). Is that a problem with ECP?

No. In fact, in July 2002 the FDA approved ECP as a treatment for congestive heart failure (CHF). After completing a course of ECP treatment, patients with CHF typically have less swelling in their legs, less shortness of breath, less fatigue, and often require less diuretic medication.

I have already had bypass surgery/angioplasty/stents. Can I still have ECP?

Yes! Most of our patients have already had one (or many) of these procedures. They come for ECP treatment because they still have angina.