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PM R. 2009 Mar;1(3):268-76. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2008.12.002.

Enhanced external counterpulsation: an innovative physical therapy for refractory angina.

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Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA 19111, USA.


The prevalence of refractory angina in the United States is 600,000 to 1.8 million. Improved pharmacological, invasive, and surgical therapies for cardiovascular diseases during the last few decades have led to an increase in life expectancy of such individuals. Despite treatment with multiple medications and invasive procedures, these patients remain symptomatic and functionally limited. Enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) is a safe, noninvasive, well-tolerated, and clinically effective outpatient physical therapy for many patients with refractory angina. Numerous trials demonstrate positive clinical responses among at least 80% of patients undergoing EECP, including reductions in angina and nitrate use, increases in exercise tolerance, and enhanced quality of life. Several mechanisms, including the promotion of collateral blood flow, improvement in endothelial function, reduction in inflammation, and the production of peripheral training effects similar to exercise, are thought to be responsible for the clinical benefits of this therapy. Despite the marked success rates EECP achieves with appropriately selected patients who have end-stage coronary artery disease, the treatment remains largely unknown, particularly among physiatrists. This review will summarize the current evidence for the use of EECP and spark a better understanding of the potential role of this treatment in cardiac rehabilitation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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