Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess safety and efficacy of enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP).
Background: Case series have shown that EECP can improve exercise tolerance, symptoms and myocardial perfusion in stable angina pectoris.
Methods: A multicenter, prospective, randomized, blinded, controlled trial was conducted in seven university hospitals in 139 outpatients with angina, documented coronary artery disease (CAD) and positive exercise treadmill test. Patients were given 35 h of active counterpulsation (active CP) or inactive counterpulsation (inactive CP) over a four- to seven-week period. Outcome measures were exercise duration and time to > or =1-mm ST-segment depression, average daily anginal attack count and nitroglycerin usage.
Results: Exercise duration increased in both groups, but the between-group difference was not significant (p > 0.3). Time to > or =1-mm ST-segment depression increased significantly from baseline in active CP compared with inactive CP (p = 0.01). More active-CP patients saw a decrease and fewer experienced an increase in angina episodes as compared with inactive-CP patients (p < 0.05). Nitroglycerin usage decreased in active CP but did not change in the inactive-CP group. The between-group difference was not significant (p > 0.7).
Conclusions: Enhanced external counterpulsation reduces angina and extends time to exercise-induced ischemia in patients with symptomatic CAD. Treatment was relatively well tolerated and free of limiting side effects in most patients.