My experience with ECP Therapy (External Counter Pulsation)

October 6 20132 Commented

Categorized Under: Healthy lifestyle, Natural health, Natural health information

The day my friend John told me he had arranged a course of treatment of ECP Therapy for me, it went in 1 ear and out the other.  I had never heard of ECP before, nor am I that good at being proactive with my own health.

He told me it is a FDA approved treatment for angina and congestive heart failure, and that his friend Shane McGregor from Heart Fit NZ was offering me a course of treatments, to see if it would help me with my blood pressure.

He told me there were a number of studies done in China and the USA on people with high blood pressure and when he was talking to Shane, he was interested to see if I could also benefit from ECP.

I didn’t really think my blood pressure was that bad and hadn’t been monitoring it, so again didn’t think too much about the offer, until Shane came up to my shop to talk to me about it.

I instantly liked Shane.  He had a pile of stapled papers on ECP and a couple of coloured brochures in his hand and was enthusiastic to talk to me about ECP therapy.

I’m usually not as obliging when people come up to my shop to try and convince me about something, especially when it involves a commitment in my time, but I thought I would hear Shane out (especially since John had gone to the trouble to arrange it for me), so went next door with Shane to find out more about  ECP and how he got involved in it.

This is what Shane told me

“It was in 2012 and my brother in law Deane (44), was working full time as a Builder in a busy job in Australia.  After a hard day at work, he was glad to get home and put his feet up and relax.”

“One day after work, he noticed a terrible pain in his chest, that he described “was like an all black forward pressing down with all his weight”.  Deane knew this was not good and being the kiwi bloke he is, he decided to drive himself to the hospital emergency room.

Thank goodness he did, as waiting for him, was a triple bypass operation!

“Six weeks later he was back in NZ to recuperate with his family.  Even though he had survived the bypass ordeal he looked like death warmed up – grey, sullen and he had no energy at all.”

Deane decided to go through a course of ECP / EECP therapy in Auckland and – WOW!! – What a turnaround !  We couldn’t believe it!

“Before my own eyes I saw a huge transformation!” He got his colour back , he got his energy back and we got our brother in law / uncle / brother / husband back !”

Shane said, ” I vowed then that no family should suffer as my family had and that the people of New Zealand must know of this amazing therapy and that even if I could only help a handful of people it would be worth it.”

“So I bought the latest ScottCare ECP Machine to New Zealand and setup my clinic here in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland.”

And Deane?……….., Well hes back building full-time in Australia and states he owes his life to this innovative therapy ECP.

It was a pretty impressive story.  I had a look at the information Shane had bought up with him and decided, What did I have to lose? So decided to start my course of treatment that Thursday (no better time than the present) Plus, I knew if I didn’t commit right there and then, I probably wouldn’t at all.

Over the next 3 days, I did as much research as I could on ECP and decided, I could only benefit from the 35 hour course.  Here’s some of the information I found out about ECP, such as What it ECP, What happens during a treatment and What are the benefits of ECP.

What is ECP therapy?

ECP, short for External Counterpulsation Therapy, is a clinically proven, non-invasive treatment option for people with angina and congestive heart failure and primarily for those people who have been unresponsive to other therapies or who do not tolerate or who prefer not to rely on medication.

As well as this, it has been used in people with Chronic fatigue syndrome, Erectile dysfunction & for Athletes and Sports people who wish to increase their stamina and endurance, as well as speed up their recovery times.

What happens during a treatment of ECP?

Pneumatic cuffs (similar to blood pressure cuffs) are attached to the muscular areas of your calf, thigh and buttocks, while you lie on the special bed/mattress.  Hoses connect the cuffs to an air/vacuum pump, which inflate and deflate the cuffs via the computer-controlled operators console. Three ECG electrodes are placed on your chest, so the computer can monitor your heart rate.  You also have a sensor on your finger, which detects your pulse wave.  It also tells you your oxygen saturation level.

A treatment takes 1 hour.  I found it best to just lie there and relax, but the information says you can watch TV, listen to music or even have a nap.

The Brochure says  “A course of treatment usually specifies a total of 35 hours of therapy, administered for one hour per day, 5 days a week for 7 weeks.  They say, That while most patients begin to experience relief from their angina symptoms after 3 to 4 weeks, some patients may require additional weeks of treatment before the angina symptoms are resolved.”

When I started my ECP treatment, I had one treatment a day for the first 5 treatments and then 2 a day for the next 30.  When I had two treatments a day I had one and then had a half hour break and then had the 2nd treatment.

How does ECP Work?

This information comes from the Brochure “What is ECP”?   A computer interprets your ECG which provides timing signals that control the sequential inflation and deflation of cuffs, which are attached to your calve, thigh and around your buttocks.  Each inflation cycle is timed to start and end during the resting phase of your heartbeat (diastole)

As diastole begins, the cuffs inflate rapidly and sequentially from the calves to the buttocks.  This has two immediate effects;

1. A strong retrograde “counterpulse” occurs in the arterial system, forcing fresh oxygenated blood back towards the heart and coronary arteries

2. An increased volume of venous blood is returned to the heart under increased pressure.

The combined effect of these two events is to increase the oxygen supply and perfusion pressure in the heart muscle and to increase or “pre-load” so the heart has a greater volume of blood to pump during the next systolic event.

Next, as your heart nears the end of diastole and prepares for systole (ventricular contraction), the computer instructs the deflation valves to open so a vacuum can deflate the cuffs instantly (fig 5). This action also provides therapeutic advantages by reducing the hearts after-load.  Since the vascular beds in the lower extremities are essentially empty, the resistance to blood flow is markedly reduced, thereby decreasing the amount of work that the heart must do to pump blood to these areas (reducing oxygen demand within the myocardium).

As a result of these diastolic augmentation activities, the peak diastolic pressure is significantly increased, benefiting circulation in the heart muscle and in other organs as well.  At the same time, your systolic pressure is reduced, to the general benefit of the vascular system.

Clinical studies suggest that the increase in myocardial perfusion pressure stimulates the use of collateral vessels that are already present, but unused, there by allowing oxygenated blood to bypass ischemic (starved) areas in the heart.  Other cardiologists believe that the myocardium may actually develop new vasculature.

When the artery walls become stiff, this is primarily related to collagen-elastin content and vessel wall thickness, whereas muscular artery stiffness is primarily related to smooth muscle tone and Nitric Oxide bio-availability.

Nitric oxide (NO) is vital to healthy arteries as it has vasodilatory, anti-platelet, anti-thrombotic, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory properties.

ECP has been shown to increases nitric oxide levels in the arteries, by the increase in blood flow in the arteries, which translates into enhanced endothelial shear stress. Increased shear stress represents a major stimulus for endothelial Nitric Oxide release.  This is why ECP can help with Erectile dysfunction, as a lack of nitric oxide is a major contributor to ED in some men.

What does the research show ECP can help with?

There is so much research about ECP and its benefits. Just type External Counterpulsation into Google or go to Shane’s website heartfitnz.co.nz and you can read all about it.

These are some of the most interesting benefits I discovered about ECP Therapy.

The main thing ECP is promoted for is for people with Angina and Congestive heart failure, who may want/need an alternative to bypass surgery, angioplasty, stenting or medications.

So reading from their brochure it says ” ECP may be indicated for people who have already had, or are not good candidates for surgical intervention. It is often an ideal choice for stable angina patients with single or multiple vessel coronary artery disease. In some cases, patients may be able to improve coronary circulation and perfusion pressure before a schedules bypass surgery. The treatment is also useful for patients who do not tolerate or who prefer not to rely on medications ”

They say that studies indicate that nearly 80% of angina sufferers benefit from ECP treatment. Most report that after the full course of treatment angina symptoms are reduced or eliminated and they have a greater tolerance for exercise. Their social activities are no longer restricted and their dependence on anti-angina medications is lessened or eliminated.

The information on the benefits of ECP with angina are very exciting. If you would like more, in depth information on this topic specifically, just email me and I will get Shane to give you the information you require.

A common problem with men who have angina is erectile dysfunction (ED). There have been numerous studies on the benefits of ECP and ED. I read of one in particularly with thirteen men with Erectile Dysfunction who were treated with ECP, 1 hour a day for 35 treatments.

All 13 men had a stable sexual relationship. 6 of the men were diabetic and 12 were cigarette smokers. Physiologic and functional measurements of erectile function were carried out before and 4 weeks after a standard 35 hour course of EECP. Each man graded the quality of erectile function on a 4-point scale , as well as recorded the percentage of attempts at intercourse that were successful. As a physiologic measure, peak penile artery blood flow rate was recorded.

The results showed that their penile artery systolic flow essentially doubled, and perceived quality of erection on a four-point scale improved from 1.5 to 2.3. Pre EECP, intercourse was not possible for 7 of the men, and was successful in <20% of attempts in 6. Only 2 of the 13 men did not benefit from EECP. Erectile dysfunction improved in 7, while in 4 ED fully resolved! Only 3 of the 13 subjects reported spontaneous morning erections pre-EECP, while post-EECP 11 men noted morning erections.

Another area of interest for me with ECP is with Chronic fatigue syndrome. Shane gave me an interesting article in the March 2011 Otago Daily Times, about Mark Craig, an all-rounder athlete who was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. He went from an aggressive right-arm off-spinner, to not being able to get off the couch or out of bed for 7 months.

Mark was inspired to try EECP (ECP) after finding out some high-profile sporting greats such as boxing great Muhammad Ali and basketball star Shaquille O-Neal backed it. He started a 5 month treatment of ECP, and hasn’t looked back.

Another area of interest with ECP is in Hearing loss and especially sudden hearing loss, as well as with tinnitus. In one study, a group of 30 people with acute hearing disorders and/or tinnitus received 5-10 one hour EECP treatments (described in Germany as PECP and at Heartfitnz as ECP). The conclusion was that tinnitus reduced in 47% of the patients, by an average of 16dB and their hearing threshold increased by 28%, an average of 19dB.

There is a heap more information available about ECP, these were just some of the things I thought effected every day people. If you would like any research papers on ECP, just email me and I can arrange these with Shane.

How I benefited from ECP.

I am really pleased I committed to the 35 hour course of ECP Therapy Treatments.  This is how I benefited from ECP:

After about the 5th treatment, I noticed a marked improvement in my overall energy levels, as well as my quality of sleep.  Generally, I felt a lot more energised, my head felt clearer and I believed I slept more soundly.  The longer I had the treatment for, the better I felt.

Your blood pressure is taken at the beginning and end of each treatment.  I was shocked the first time Shane took this, as my level was 184/107.  I hadn’t realised how high my blood pressure had got again, so I have been a lot more pro active to try and reduce this.  My Blood pressure is back down to 148/78, so this is a lot more manageable.

When you are lying on the bed having ECP you have time to think about “stuff”.  Something major that I realised was how my thoughts affected my pulse and hence my blood pressure.  I would be lying there, feeling relaxed and then something challenging would flick into my brain and bam, the computer would alter the cuff pressure, in response to my pulse change.   It was such an important realisation for me and If that was the only thing I took away from ECP (which it wasn’t, there were a lot of other benefits) then I would be happy with that.

I realised that my own brain and the thoughts I had/have  were/are a major contributor to me feeling stressed and even anxious, which I believe to be the major contributor to my high blood pressure.  I was talking to my mum about this and she has recommended I read the book called Mindfulness: An eight-week plan for finding peace in a frantic world.   I have ordered this and I’m keen to learn how to help myself.

So that is my experience with External Counterpulsation or ECP.  If you want to know more, just email me and I can put you in contact with Shane at Heart fit New Zealand for ECP treatment at www.heartfitnz.co.nz who knows all about it and can tell you if ECP is right for you.

Author
Leanne James
Naturopath and Founder Ideal Health

2 responses to “My experience with ECP Therapy (External Counter Pulsation)”

  1. S.H.AKHTAR says:

    Dear Sir, My TMT test was positive for inducible ischemia. My problem is frequent palpitations and low pulse rate( 50-54 per minute.). My CAG and CT Coronary is quite normal. I do not have angina etc.ECG is also normal.Under these medical conditions I decided to go for EECP treatment. I have already gone through 7 days (1 HR EACH DAY)TREATMENT.I am now feeling enhanced palpitations. There is no change in BP(80/140)or pulse rate. Please suggest should I continue with the treatment?

    • leannejames says:

      Good Morning. Yes, if you are noticing improvement, then you should consider the full treatment, which is the full 35 hours. Be sure to come back and let us know how you get on. Thanks

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