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Cuffs Squeeze Heart Back Into Action

Ann Thompson
Mercy Anderson nurse Kay West tightens the cuffs of the EECP machine with patient Ron Schuler.

Technology three decades old is grabbing the attention of Cincinnati doctors as a possible substitute for drugs and surgical procedures for treating heart patients.

Mercy Health Anderson introduced EECP (enhanced external counter-pulsation) therapy in January and hopes to expand it to Jewish Hospital and Mercy Health Fairfield. Christ Hospital has had the technology longer.

Ron Schuler of Eastgate tried EECP a year ago at Christ and found relief from angina.

"It was really successful and it changed my life.  And I started to get a few symptoms and it wasn’t as bad as I had it previously and I saw an opportunity to come over here at Anderson and try it out and has been just a godsend.”

Schuler is back to hiking at the Cincinnati Nature Center without having stabbing heart pains.

Dr. Vanshipal Puri with Mercy's heart institute says, “This machine squeezes the legs, pushes the blood, literally from the legs up into the heart and so it allows more blood flow to get up into the heart. But in addition, when the cuffs relax it lowers the pressure so that the heart won’t have to work so hard.”

EECP helps unblock small blood vessels near the heart and creates a natural bypass around the narrow or blocked arteries. This increased blood flow then helps ease the chest pain.

Puri says, "For whatever reason it has been one of the last tools to be used in the treatment of angina. And what we're trying to do it change that and allow a non-invasive approach and allow the treatment of that to become first or second line instead of way down on an end."