Enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) is a noninvasive technique for treatment of symptomatic coronary artery disease in patients not amenable to revascularization procedures. However, the mechanisms underlying the benefits of EECP remain unknown. We hypothesized that decreases in arterial stiffness and aortic wave reflection are a therapeutic target for EECP. Patients with coronary artery disease and chronic angina pectoris were randomized (2:1 ratio) to 35 1-hour sessions of EECP (n = 28) or sham EECP (n = 14). Central and peripheral arterial pulse-wave velocity and aortic wave reflection (augmentation index) were measured using applanation tonometry before, and after 17 and 35 1-hour treatment sessions. Wasted left ventricular pressure energy and aortic systolic tension-time index, markers of left-ventricular myocardial oxygen demand, were derived from the synthesized aortic pressure wave. Exercise duration, anginal threshold, and peak oxygen consumption were measured using a graded treadmill test. Central arterial stiffness and augmentation index were decreased after 17 and 35 sessions in the treatment group. Measurements of peripheral arterial stiffness were decreased after 35 sessions in the treatment group. Changes in aortic pressure wave reflection resulted in decreased measurements of myocardial oxygen demand and wasted left ventricular energy. No changes in central or peripheral arterial stiffness were observed in the sham group. Furthermore, measurements of exercise capacity were improved in the EECP group but unchanged in the sham group. In conclusion, EECP therapy decreases central and peripheral arterial stiffness, which may explain improvements in myocardial oxygen demand in patients with chronic angina pectoris after treatment.
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