Clarkston man using Beaumont’s EECP therapy to help his heart

Jerry McNally, 81, of Clarkston, thinks of his enhanced external counter pulsation therapy, or EECP, as an aid for his heart, like glasses might be for his eyes or a hearing aid might be for his ears. McNally, who had a triple heart bypass surgery in 1999, is using EECP therapy to control his chest pain and improve blood flow to and from his heart. 

“The treatment is a little tiring, and after it, I feel like I’ve had a workout,” explains McNally. “But, it’s a good option and I am looking forward to completing the treatments to see what it will do for me.”

EECP therapy

Exercise physiologist Roger Sacks oversees
Jerry McNally's EECP treatment at the
Beaumont Health Center in Royal Oak.

EECP treatment is done on an outpatient basis and generally consists of 35 one-hour sessions, which are usually done five days a week for seven weeks. Most insurance companies, including Medicare, cover the cost of the treatment.

For the treatment, patients wear tight fitting stretch pants and lie on a comfortable table. Then, large blood pressure-like cuffs are placed on the patient’s calves, thighs and hip/buttock areas. Electrodes for an electrocardiogram are then applied to the chest. The ECG signal is used to synchronize the inflation and deflation of the cuffs. Between each heartbeat, the cuffs inflate from the ankles up, and this process increases the supply of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. Deflation of the cuffs occurs just before the heart contracts, which decreases the resistance in the blood vessels and decreases the heart’s workload.

Roger Sacks, an exercise physiologist at the Beaumont Health Center in Royal Oak, says the treatment “acts like nature’s bypass and tricks the body into placing extra blood in the arteries, which gives the body a boost.” Sacks also adds, “EECP takes a true time commitment by the patient, but it’s noninvasive and can help improve a patient’s quality of life, and can be a good option for many people like Jerry.”

A referral from a cardiologist is needed to begin EECP therapy and potential candidates include someone who:

  • experience shortness of breath or chest pain with minimal activity
  • uses sublingual nitroglycerin on a regular basis
  • has had coronary bypass surgery, cardiac stents or angioplasty and has persistent or recurrent symptoms
  • is not a candidate for bypass surgery or coronary artery stents
  • is interested in exploring alternative treatment options for symptomatic heart disease

Learn more about EECP therapy by contacting the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at 248-655-5750.