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Avera Medical Minute: EECP treatment now available in Sioux Falls

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 8:05 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Avera Health is offering a new program at the Avera Heart Hospital and North Central Heart Institute Clinic. It’s called EECP therapy and is meant to help those who are experiencing chest pain caused by poor blood flow. The therapy has been offered for six weeks now.

A visit to the Avera Heart Hospital has now become a part of Leisa Wilson’s weekly routine. This is her fourth week undergoing Enhanced External Counterpulsation therapy or EECP.

“I had several small heart attacks, I guess. About every five months, I was going in and having another procedure done. I had stents, open heart and had chest pains again,” said Wilson.

EECP is often performed on those experiencing angina, which is chest pain or discomfort caused by insufficient blood flow to the heart.

“I was miserable. I mean there were days where I would have a lot of fluid retention and I couldn’t breathe and it was hard to just even walk from one end of my apartment to the other. I couldn’t do hardly anything,” said Wilson.

After seeking out help, the Nebraska resident was referred to Dr. Sherri Brooks, a cardiologist with North Central Heart Institute.

“Any patient who has had coronary disease, which is typically going to be our, you know, middle-aged and older population for the most part are patients who are going to be qualifying for this therapy,” said Dr. Brooks.

“It’s a huge benefit because again 20 to 40 percent of patients who have procedures, whether they be stenting, or angioplasty, or they have bypass still continue to have chest discomfort,” she added.

How the treatment works is that cuffs are placed around the lower half of the body. They attach to air hoses and inflate and deflate in rhythm with the patient’s heart beat. This gently but firmly compresses the blood vessels to increase blood flow to the heart.

“The way that I think of it is when the heart relaxes it inflates sequentially. So it will start at the calves and then the thighs and then the buttocks. So that pushes all that blood flow up directly into the heart as the heart is relaxing. So it gets the most blood flow possible. And then it will deflate simultaneously,” said Brittany Van Otterloo, an EECP Therapist.

This therapy is non-invasive.

“I’m to the point where my scar tissue is so bad that it would be almost deadly, you know, the risk would be too great to me to go through another surgery. So I’m good with this,” said Wilson.

“There’s hardly any side effects except maybe skin irritation from the compression, but, you know, you’re not going to be any worse off. I’ll tell you that much,” she added.

EECP does require a commitment. Patients complete 35 treatments, one hour a day, five days a week for seven weeks straight.

“Seven weeks out of a year to improve your quality of life. Heck yeah, it’s worth it,” said Wilson.

Four weeks in and Wilson is already seeing progress.

“I’m also diabetic. So I have some neuropathy going on and I know that’s nerve pain, but with the approved circulation my feet feel better. I’ve seen my blood pressure go down already. I’ve already gotten off one blood pressure med,” said Wilson.

“I mean I could walk a mile plus a day. I mean, it’s just, it’s awesome because I can go do things,” she added.

Wilson hopes to get the word out about Avera’s new program, so EECP therapy can help others as well.

“If your doctor approaches you with this, do it,” Wilson said.

For more information on EECP therapy head to Avera.org.

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