Keeping a steady pace on the elliptical machine at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, 68-year-old Peter Davio of Clarksburg reflects on the time since his triple bypass surgery in October 2008.
He now exercises three days a week and eats a healthier diet, but it didn’t start out that way.
Davio had a family history of heart disease. A stress test and a catheterization revealed a blockage in his arteries. Within 72 hours, he underwent surgery.
“About 90 days after my surgery, I developed angina,” Davio says, which is chest pain or pressure that you feel when your heart muscle does not get enough blood.
The blockage had returned. That’s when Dennis Friedman, M.D., director of cardiology and cardiovascular rehabilitation at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, recommended a nonsurgical option: enhanced external counterpulsation, or EECP.
“During EECP, pressure cuffs are placed on the legs and buttocks,” Dr. Friedman explains. “The cuffs are timed to inflate and deflate with each heartbeat. This milks blood to the heart, improving blood flow and circulation.”
Davio underwent 35 one-hour treatment sessions at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, which houses the only hospital-based EECP program in Montgomery County.
“Once I got acclimated to the cuffs, it was a piece of cake,” he says. “I’ve been in the gym ever since, increasing the intensity of my exercise regimen.”
People with vascular problems, such as clots, are not candidates for EECP. Dr. Friedman recommends the therapy to “patients who have exhausted interventional care options or whose medications no longer relieve angina or heart failure.”
Says Barbara Courtney, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital’s director of cardiac rehab, respiratory and physical medicine: “If patients feel chest pain while on a treadmill at 2 miles an hour, we will consider stopping cardiac rehab and using EECP. That treatment gets more blood and oxygen to the heart.”
EECP patients can start exercising after two weeks, if they feel up to it, she says. Often, patients find they have more energy halfway through EECP therapy.
On a recent vacation, Davio joined a conga line that took center stage. “We ended with Rockette-style high kicks,” he recalls. “I had the energy to do it.”
Get Heart Care Answers
To learn more about EECP and the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, visit shadygrove adventisthospital.com/heart or call 240-826-6662.