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A non-invasive treatment for angina does not lead to enhanced athletic performance

Washington, DC Each year, about one in 100 Americans experiences severe constricting pain in their chest, often radiating from the precordium to the shoulder and down the arm, due to arterial narrowing of the heart muscle. This is known as "angina pectoris," which occurs when the heart muscle does not get enough blood and oxygen to do its work. It is a serious condition because it is a warning sign of coronary disease.

Fortunately, surgery may not be required. Instead, an enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP), can be used. This is a noninvasive technique that increases oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart and reduces the heart's workload. It is performed over a series of weeks, with each session lasting from one to two hours. Pressure cuffs on the legs are inflated in sequences and as a result, blood vessels in the legs are gently compressed and the blood is forced back to the heart.

A Short History of EECP

The American Heart Association has stated that the EECP device lowers the pressure the heart must pump against, increases the rate of return of blood to the heart, and increases blood pressure while the heart is resting. External counterpulsation also improves the balance between the amount of oxygen the heart needs and the amount it gets. Both of these changes reduce the pain.

In the 1998, the FDA approved EECP as a treatment for angina. In 1999, Medicare recognized and began reimbursing payment for EECP as a treatment alternative for patients with functional class III or IV angina and whose disease is not amenable to bypass surgery or angioplasty. As treatment centers opened and practitioners gained experience in treating patients with EECP, anecdotal reports surfaced about EECP and enhanced athletic performance. The frequency of patients reporting an increase in endurance during exercise became more and more common.

Literature in the field suggests that the EECP mechanisms not only improve cardiac function
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Contact: Donna Krupa
djkrupa1@aol.com
703-527-7357
American Physiological Society
19-Apr-2004


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