An effective, noninvasive approach to improve cardiac function, this therapy provides relief for patients with blocked coronary arteries, congestive heart failure, or angina.
Tim Lownsbury remembers visiting family at The Villages on Christmas Eve when his left arm went numb.
“I didn’t feel well,” recalls the retired upstate New York Teamster, “so my wife got dressed and we drove down to the hospital.
“Two days later, they put two stents in my heart.”
A stent is a small wire mesh tube used to treat narrow or weak arteries. During stent placement, a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel and threaded through until it reaches the blockage in the coronary artery. The blockage is opened, often with an expandable balloon device, a stent is placed into the artery to keep it open, and the catheter is removed. Unfortunately, in a significant number of cases, patients still experience restenosis, which is the recurrence of the narrowing of a blood vessel.
“Before they released me a few days later, I was told I would have to be readmitted in two weeks for a couple of more stents,” confides Tim. “They said I just wasn’t strong enough to have the four stents I needed placed during the first surgery.
“However, I didn’t last two weeks. By the morning of New Year’s Eve, I was back in the hospital, having the two more stents placed.”
Tim says the team did a good job, but within a couple of years he was suffering with angina, which is a discomfort or pain that occurs when an area of the heart muscle is not receiving enough blood oxygen.
“I went to my primary care physician,” says Tim, “who recommended I see Dr. Amarchand.”
L. Amarchand, MD, FACP, is a board-certified internist and cardiologist with an impressive record of success in maintaining his cardiac patients’ health and independence. Dr. Amarchand specializes in using enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) as a method to treat patients with congestive heart failure, blocked coronary arteries, and angina pain in a noninvasive manner.
The doctor ordered a cardiac catheterization for Tim, which produces images of the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle) and of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. It provides an evaluation of the efficiency of the heart and an assessment of possible abnormalities in the heart valves, and helps determine the course of interventional treatment.
“Dr. Amarchand was able to clear all but one of the stents,” observes Tim. “However, he told me that if they couldn’t improve the blood flow in that final stent, I would have angina for the rest of my life.
“Then he told me about EECP.”
EECP is a natural bypass procedure that has helped more than 12 million Americans by relieving their debilitating angina pain and restoring their energy, among other benefits.
Many symptoms, including feelings of weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and a tightening or pressure in the chest, can all be caused by a lack of oxygenated blood flowing through the heart. As these symptoms worsen, it is not unusual for patients to restrict their activities to reduce their discomfort, and quality of life quickly diminishes. EECP can reverse these symptoms.
This therapy uses compression cuffs wrapped around a patient’s calves, thighs, and buttocks to apply pressure in rhythms carefully timed to the patient’s heartbeat.
“The pressure propels more blood upward and into the coronary arteries, enlarging the arteries and improving collateral circulation,” Dr. Amarchand informs. “It helps the patient’s own circulatory system bypass coronary artery blockages and opens up the underused collateral blood vessels, providing a treatment option for patients who want to try a noninvasive intervention before resorting to open-heart surgery, or for patients who have not achieved relief with prior surgical procedures like bypass and angioplasty.
“Studies indicate that eighty-five percent of patients completing EECP treatments obtain substantial and sometimes dramatic relief of their heart-related symptoms,” the doctor continues. “The same percentage realizes increased exercise tolerance and mental alertness and reduced need for nitroglycerin to relieve angina pain.”
EECP, which is FDA-approved and Medicare-reimbursed, is typically accomplished in a series of 35 sessions over the course of seven weeks. During each hour-long treatment, the patient reclines, fully clothed, on a cushioned table while listening to music or watching a movie.
The beneficial effects of EECP can last three to five years, emphasizes Dr. Amarchand, and it is noninvasive so it can be repeated as often as needed.
“I worked with Dr. Guo during my EECP treatments,” Tim notes, “and he – everyone in the office – is excellent, just excellent. I got used to the treatments fifteen minutes into the initial therapy, and after a couple of weeks, I was sleeping through every episode. Of course, they monitor you constantly.
“They said I would know if the treatments worked because I would feel better, and I do feel better, a lot better. I really do. I’m playing golf again. I don’t have a problem, although the doctor did say not to hesitate phoning if I do. He said call, even if it is on the weekend.
“But I really feel great. So I am very pleased with what he did.”