Banker Mohan Gaikwad, 50, was not left with much choice after his medical reports showed that he had five blocked arteries. Having suffered a renal failure, doctors suggested against bypass surgery or an angioplasty, and insisted that only medication could save him from a probable heart attack.

“I felt like I was sitting on a time bomb just waiting to explode,” said Gaikwad. One day, his family physician introduced him to the idea of External Counter Pulsation (ECP). After undergoing treatment at the Institute of Preventive Care (IPC), Gaikwad claimed that his chest pain had reduced significantly and he could move around without any uneasiness.

He is among the increasing number of patients opting for the non-invasive ECP cardiac procedure in the city. It is one of the modes of treatment for coronary artery diseases, chest pain, congestive heart failure, and of late is also being used during heart attacks.

Though, recognised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995, the treatment came to India only in 2006. But, doctors practicing ECP in Mumbai did not find many takers because of the high cost. However, now with Indian companies manufacturing the machine and subsequent decline in the cost of the therapy, the treatment has become quite popular.

In this procedure, cuffs are draped around both the legs of the patient. The cuffs, which are then inflated and deflated with each heart beat, open small blood vessels and create newer openings around the blocked arteries. “When the cuffs inflate they do so in a sequential pattern so that the blood in the legs is pushed upwards, towards the heart,” said Dr Ashok Punjabi, consultant cardiologist, Breach Candy and Lilavati hospital.
He said that the new openings help in reduction of chest pain, fatigue and also allow patients to have an active lifestyle. He, however, cautioned that patients should not consider it as a direct alternative for bypass surgery. “It can be done on patients who have already undergone a bypass or cannot undergo bypass or angioplasty for various reasons,” said Punjabi.

The Institute of Preventive Cardiology (IPC) that provides this therapy in three of its centres said that in the last year they have treated more than 2,000 patients. “We get about 10 patients every day,” said Dr Shekhar Karate of IPC, Thane.

On the other hand, cardiologists also insisted that it should not be taken as an ultimate cure. “It may be promising but I have also come across cases where patients who have tried ECP have not improved at all,” said Dr Vijay Bang, consultant cardiologist, Lilavati Hospital. “They eventually have to go for bypass or angioplasty,” he added.

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