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University of Pittsburgh Study Shows EECP Improves Left Ventricular Function

PITTSBURGH, March 15, 2000 — Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP®) improves left ventricular function in heart failure patients, according to a study being presented by University of Pittsburgh researchers on Wednesday, March 15, at the 49th Scientific Sessions of the American College of Cardiologyin Anaheim, Ca.

The study, "Improvement in Left Ventricular Performance by Enhanced External Counterpulsation in Patients with Heart Failure," will be presented by John Gorcsan III, M.D., associate professor of medicine, Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the Echocardiography Laboratories at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Cardiovascular Institute.

When undergoing EECP treatment, patients lie on a padded table equipped with inflation and deflation valves connected to specially designed cuffs applied to the lower extremities and buttocks. As the heart begins its resting phase, the cuffs are inflated sequentially from the calves toward the buttocks. Just before the heart pumps, the cuffs are simultaneously deflated. This sequence causes the heart muscle to receive an increased supply of blood, as well as reduce its workload and increase the amount of blood pumped.

The eight patients in the study had New York Heart Association Class II or III heart failure and a heart ejection fraction rate of less than 40 percent. The ejection fraction rate is the percentage of blood pumped from the heart on each beat and is a quantitative evaluation of how well the heart contracts. All patients in the study continued to receive their standard medical therapy. Following 35, one-hour sessions of EECP treatment over seven weeks, all of the patients showed significant increases in their left ventricular function and their ejection fraction. Patients also experienced a decrease in their heart rate.

"EECP appears to be beneficial to left ventricular function in heart failure patients and may be a useful adjunct to medical therapy," said Dr. Gorcsan.

According to the American Heart Association, there are 4.9 million patients in the United States with heart failure. With 400,000 new cases each year, heart failure is the single most frequent cause of hospitalization for people age 65 and older.

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