Enhanced external counterpulsation: Mechanisms of action and clinical applications
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Symptomatic coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart failure (HF), either of ischaemic or non-ischemic aetiology, are common medical problems. Despite optimal medical treatment and improved revascularisation techniques, a significant number of patients are not successfully managed. Among the non-pharmacological, alternative, non-invasive treatments suggested for these patients, enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) is considered the most effective one. EECP, administered in an out-patient setting, consists of three pneumatic cuffs applied to each of the patient's legs that are sequentially inflated and deflated synchronised with the cardiac cycle. Numerous clinical trials have shown that EECP is safe and effective in patients with ischaemic heart disease, with or without left ventricular dysfunction, improving their quality of life. EECP appears to be beneficial as an adjunctive therapy in patients with HF of any aetiology. Cardiac syndrome X has been shown to be effectively treated with EECR Research in EECP expanded in its potential use for entities other than heart disease. More trials are necessary, including sham-controlled trials, to further establish EECP among medical society.