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.

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.

Can ECP dislodge plaque and cause a stroke or heart attack?

No. Our bodies obey the laws of physics, and one principle law is that fluid will follow the path of least 4resistance. Atherosclerotic plaques are calcified and hard (like the plaque on teeth), and they create an obstruction that detours the blood through alternate routes. During ECP, when your blood is flowing to your heart, it will naturally bypass arteries with plaque and enter healthy, non-diseased blood vessels to go around the blockages. Going around the blockages is a longer trip, but it is a much easier one. In time, these new pathways are reinforced and become lasting routes for blood to reach your heart muscle beyond the blockages. Every ECP patient has had multiple, serious blockages. No one has ever had a heart attack or a stroke as a result of the treatment.

Are there any patients who are not able to have ECP?

There are very few patients who are unable to have ECP. Those who should not be treated include pregnant women, individuals with a severe leakage in their aortic valve requiring surgical repair, and patients with an active blood clot in their leg.

Does ECP aggravate high blood pressure (hypertension)?

No. If you have hypertension that is properly managed, you may undergo ECP without difficulty. Oftentimes, patients with hypertension find that their blood pressure improves as they proceed with ECP. If your hypertension is uncontrolled, you must seek medical care to get your blood pressure under control with proper medications before proceeding with ECP.

I have bad circulation in my legs (peripheral vascular disease or PVD). May I still have ECP?

Yes, and you should! ECP improves blood flow throughout the entire body, including your legs. If you have poor leg circulation, you might need more than 35 treatments. Patients typically require at least 50 treatments to get the full benefit of the program. In addition to improved stamina, less angina, and less nitroglycerin use, patients with PVD have a marked improvement in their leg circulation in response to ECP.

What happens if my angina returns months or years after I finish my ECP treatment course? Can I come back for more?

Yes. ECP is not a once-in-a-lifetime treatment. Heart disease is a chronic illness and symptoms may return at some point in the future. The door is always open for you to return for additional courses of ECP as needed.