An Assist for the Heart
Painless, Non-Invasive Cardiac Therapy
People suffering from certain heart conditions such as chronic stable angina may benefit from a painless, non-invasive cardiac therapy now offered at Anne Arundel Medical Center called external counterpulsation (ECP).
ECP certainly has improved quality of life for 61-year-old Patricia Boston of Annapolis, who last year had quintuple bypass surgery after suffering recurring chest pain. Unfortunately, a sixth blockage was located in an awkward position, making its removal impossible. Even with the five bypasses, Mrs. Boston continued to have shortness of breath and tightness in her chest, classic symptoms of angina.
“Then my cardiologist, Lawrence Jacobs, M.D., learned about this procedure that AAMC was going to offer,” said Mrs. Boston. “I was happy because the few hospitals that offer it are far from my home.”
In February, Mrs. Boston became the first patient to receive external counterpulsation at AAMC, the only hospital in the region to offer this procedure.
Using the ECP method, a therapist wraps large inflatable cuffs around the calves, thighs and buttocks of a patient reclined on a padded table. These cuffs, much like blood pressure cuffs, are inflated in sequence to assist blood flow through the body. The blood vessels in the legs are gently compressed and the oxygen-rich blood is forced back to the heart through nearby vessels that are either unused or under used, thus relieving the angina.
The total treatment regimen consists of one-hour daily sessions for six weeks for a total of 30 sessions. The effects of treatment are cumulative, so patients usually see a gradual improvement as their heart gets stronger.
Barbara Furlow, M.D., medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at AAMC, says, “For a large percentage of angina patients whose circumstances rule out surgery or angioplasty, ECP has a positive effect that may last as long as several years. Relieving angina symptoms may allow a patient to engage in other forms of cardiac rehabilitation that were off limits as long as angina was present.”
Mrs. Boston, who worked as a medical aide for 29 years before her retirement, has plenty to keep her busy and active: three children and six greatgrandchildren, one of whom, Nikyah, accompanied her to daily ECP sessions.
Dr. Furlow cautions that ECP is for certain categories of patients. “It’s not a therapy that patients can or should seek out on their own but rather through a consultation with a cardiologist,” she said. “The good news is that having ECP available through AAMC will make it more accessible and convenient for patients and their families in the community who until now had to travel some distance to receive the therapy.”caption: Patricia Boston (right) found relief from symptoms of angina through external counterpulsation, now available at AAMC. She is pictured here with exercise physiologist Amanda Tender, M.S., and Boston?s granddaughter, Nikyah.
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