What is External Counterpulsation?

Part 1

External Counterpulsation therapy (ECP) works by increasing the blood flow in both arteries and veins during the relaxation phase of the heart (diastole). The medical term for this is “Diastolic Augmentation”. It is achieved by sequential inflation of cuffs placed on both lower limbs. This increases blood flow to the heart and other organs, such as the kidneys, liver and brain. In turn this means that more blood is available to be pumped out when the next heart beat (contraction of the heart muscle) occurs.

Diastolic Augmentation

Increases blood flow to heart and other organs when the heart is at rest

Systolic Unloading

The workload of the heart is reduced

Part 2

Immediately before the next contraction of the heart (systole), the pressure in all three cuffs instantaneously falls to zero.
The heart is now able to pump against greatly reduced resistance into empty veins and arteries in the legs. This significantly reduces the amount of work the heart has to do to pump blood around the body. This effect is known as “Systolic unloading”.

Part 3

As the contraction of the heart finishes and the next relaxation phase begins (diastole), the cuffs once again sequentially inflate increasing the amount of blood in the arteries and veins. Supporting the heart in this way reduces strain on the heart muscle, allowing it to pump more effectively.

Cycle by Cycle

The heart recovers and strengthens

Microscopic effects

Improved vascular health

Part 4

Research has now demonstrated that the increased blood flow around the body stimulates the delicate lining of the blood vessels. This lining, called the endothelium, releases important chemicals into the blood. This includes nitric oxide, which causes all blood vessels to relax (dilate), further increasing blood flow around the body. There are also strong beneficial reductions in inflammatory substances. Increased flow also stimulates the bone marrow to release stems cells for new blood vessel growth (angiogenesis). The benefits of ECP lead to continued improvements even after the course of treatment is completed.

ECP leads to
Sustained improvement
in Cardiac function

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