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Johnny McCharen, a heart patient, couldn’t walk a mile without experiencing chest pain. But today, a mile walk is routine. He has more energy and stamina and his chest pain is gone – all without surgery. A new non-surgical procedure, called Enhanced External Counterpulsation, or EECP, made the difference.

EECP is the latest advance in treatment for people with chest pain, or angina, that doesn’t respond successfully to medications. “EECP is a great opportunity to improve the quality of your life,” says McCharen. “It doesn’t hurt. It’s a great alternative.”

Angina pectoris is a recurring pain or discomfort most often caused by exertion. Usually felt in the chest, the problem also may be experienced as shortness of breath, pain in the arms, neck, back or jaw. These symptoms are produced when the heart doesn’t receive adequate oxygen from its own blood supply and usually are the result of coronary artery disease, the narrowing or obstruction of one or more arteries serving the heart muscle.

Treatment usually includes medications and restricted activity, however, symptoms are not always relieved by these measures and surgery may be required. Coronary artery bypass surgery and angioplasty are the two most common surgical procedures performed in the United States to treat coronary artery disease. The newer option, EECP, however, shows promise for many people, although it is not as widely available as the other treatment procedures.

How EECP Works:

During EECP treatments, a series of three cuffs are placed on the legs to increase blood flow to the heart by squeezing the large muscles of the legs. The cuffs inflate and deflate in rhythm with the heartbeat. The blood bypasses the diseased, major heart vessels and is forced into the smaller blood vessels of the heart. Over time, these smaller vessels assume greater blood-carrying capacity, providing the heart with a more sufficient blood supply than before.

Most patients receive 35 hours of EECP treatments – usually one hour a day for five days a week over a seven-week period. Occasionally, more treatments are needed. Benefits may be felt after just a few treatme