Non invasive therapy offers alternative to bypass, stents

External Counter Pulsation can improve circulation

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Felix Avenaim is one of more than 3 million people worldwide living with a pacemaker.

The device protects him if his heart rate drops dangerously low but that alone wasn't enough.

Because Avenaim was at high risk for heart bypass surgery or stenting, he turned to Local 10's Dr. Ari Soffer for a second opinion on a treatment called external counter pulsation or ECP.

"I went there and said what is this all about and he said 'Felix, you know, this is something that might help'", Avenaim said.

ECP is done on an outpatient basis through a series of typically 35 treatments done daily.  

Each treatment session lasts about an hour.

While the patient lies on a special bed, inflatable cuffs, much like blood pressure monitoring cuffs, are wrapped around the lower and upper legs.

A computer coordinates a cycle of rapid inflations and deflations of the cuffs in sync with the patients heartbeat.

The entire process is monitored by an EKG machine.

The procedure, which simulates passive exercise, forces blood back to the heart, which in turn improves heart vessel circulation.

"It did help, I feel a lot better and hopefully I will continue to be that way," said Avenaim.

ECP is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for those who have known heart blockages or coronary artery disease but who are not good candidates for bypass surgery or stenting.

Thsoe with a large abdominal aortic aneurysm or severe untreated peripheral arterial disease are not good candidates for the procedure.

If you'd like Dr. Soffer's Second Opinion on a health concern, email him at:

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