Cover Story

External Counter Pulsation therapy a safe cure for your heart

External counter pulsation therapy (ECP) is a non-invasive therapy which is used to help patients with Angina and Heart Disease and can also be used as a preventive therapy for people who have a strong family history of such conditions. People who are suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome, Diabetes, Hypertension, and many more conditions can also benefit from this therapy. It is also used by athletes as a Recovery Therapy to improve their exercise tolerance.

The therapy is also effective in addressing sexual dysfunction.

First developed over half a century ago as a resuscitative tool to support the failing heart, External Counter Pulsation therapy (ECP) is based on hemodynamic principles of the intra-aortic balloon pump.

In the last few decades, ECP has evolved into the modern therapy, which has proven to be a safe, effective, and low-cost noninvasive treatment for patients with debilitating angina and chronic heart failure who are poor candidates for revascularization procedures and have sub-optimal results from other therapies. Numerous studies have shown ECP to be efficacious in patients with chronic angina, with its effects lasting for several years after completion of therapy.

Vasujit Kalia in a tête-à-tête with Sharad Bachani, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Merlin Digital where he talks in length about this therapy and how it can possibly prevent a heart disorder.

Why this shift from consumer electronics company towards healthcare technology?

Merlin Digital has remained focused in providing innovative technologies and solutions to simplify everyday life whilst adding a bit of excitement and magic to such solutions. Therefore the shift toward healthcare solutions was an organic process that was unavoidable due to the advanced solutions we were researching that also happened to address other human needs, such as ailments that technology was now able to better solve from a medical perspective. Many of our innovative solutions and products are based on the experiences of the people around us, and suggestions from our customers. There is no better voice to listen to in product development than the voice of the consumer.

What is External Counter Pulsation Technology (ECP) and how does it work?

ECP Therapy is a United Stated of America Food &Drug Administration (US FDA) approved therapy that is used to enhance the overall blood circulation in our body. ECP Therapy acts as an external “cardiac assist device” helping the heart perform more efficiently with little effort or stress during the session. This process delivers oxygen-rich blood to all vital organs inside the body including the heart. Over time, this process improves the function of the heart delivering more cardiac output (stronger heart) with less effort resulting in a more efficient vascular system.

It is a Non-Invasive therapy which is used to help patients with Angina and Heart Disease and can also be used as a preventive therapy for people who have a strong family history of such conditions. People who are suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome, Diabetes, Hypertension, and many more conditions can also benefit from this therapy. It is also used by athletes as a Recovery Therapy to improve their exercise tolerance. The therapy is also effective in addressing sexual dysfunction.

What is the cost involved in it?

A patient is required to undergo therapy which daily over a course of 35 days. The therapy is very simple and lasts for just 1 hour without any movement restriction as long as the patient is on the therapy bed with inflatable cuffs and ECG sensors in place. The patient can enjoy watching their favorite TV shows or answer emails and phone calls whilstundergoing therapy. Each session costs 300 AED only.

What are the side effects of this therapy and who all should avoid it?

The only side effects are skin irritation or chafing around the cuffs in patients who have very sensitive skin. However, ECP should be avoided in people who have Valvular Heart Disease, Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pregnancy.

Is there any restriction for the patients and what is involved in the treatment?

There is no restriction but certain precautionary measures to be taken before starting the session like patients with blood pressure above 180/110 mmHg should be controlled before commencing the treatment, and also ensure the heart rate be not greater than 120 bpm and the patient should be in a specific attire recommended by the ECP technician.

This United Stated of America Food & Drug Administration approved treatment involves the patient lying on the ECP bed where three sets of inflatable pressure cuffs are attached to the patient’s calves, thighs and around the buttocks. Electrode stickers are placed on the patient’s chest to detect the patient’s heart rate. Timed to the patient’s heart rate, the cuffs rapidly and sequentially inflate, starting from the calves and proceeding upward to the buttocks during the relaxation (diastolic) phase of each heartbeat, creating a strong arterial retrograde flow towards the heart and when the heart is in the contracting (systolic) phase, the cuffs sequentially deflate allowing the blood to flow effectively throughout the body.

How can ECP be helpful for improving wellness in people without illness and also enhance performance of sportsmen?

The heart and cardiovascular system play such pivotal roles in maintaining our overall health and fitness that taking measures to ensure heart health is vital to any anti-aging or longevity program. In 2005 study published in Heat failure Monitor, Gielen et al noted that Striking similarities between aging and chronic heart failure, including “exercise intolerance, reduced cardiac functional reverse, and loss of skeletal muscle mass as a result of inflammation and catabolism.” and showed that the aging of cardiovascular system could be in individuals as young as 25-35 of years of age. In addition, Lakatta and Levy state in 2003 paper published in Circulation, “There is a continuum of expression of cardiac structural and functional alterations that occur with the age in the health humans, and this age associated cardiac changes seem to have relevance to the steep increase in LVH, chronic heart failure, and AF seen with increasing age.” It is clear that taking steps to maintain cardiovascular health is an essential component of any longevity or rejuvenation process.”

How do you foresee the popularity of this therapy in the coming years?

As the innovation in medical technology advances towards providing accurate screening and early intervention, the popularity of this therapy will not be solely reliant on the fact that it is cost effective but also due to some other important factors such as the convenience that the patient will have in avoiding the surgery and the recovery stage that’s always linked to it, the patient can resume his or her regular everyday activities after every session, and the treatment technology can be easily transported and used in remote areas where such treatments are needed by the people who don’t have access to it with less supervision and risk.

What are your expansion plans?

We envision ECP Therapy to be made available to the rural and underprivileged citizens of the world that are presently unable to afford or have access to invasive medical procedures for heart disease followed by lengthy convalescence that typically jeopardizes livelihood . This effor t will require immense commercial planning and strength and we are strategically progressing towards this goal albeit in a slow pace.

We are also moving toward this goal by educating the public via free seminars and with a free session and by reaching out to the News Media so they may help us to reach patients with chronic chest pain but aren’t a candidate for invasive procedures such as bypass surgery, angioplasty or stenting.