WHEELING – Thanks to the generosity of a Valley Grove man and his family, Wheeling Hospital EECP (external counterpulsation therapy) cardiac patients now have a new treatment bed for the therapy.

EECP is a treatment option for patients with congestive heart failure or those experiencing anginal symptoms not amendable to surgery. The noninvasive ECP works to improve circulation to the heart muscle, increasing oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart and reducing the heart’s workload. It can help build new pathways, called collaterals, around blocked arteries.

During the ECP procedure, the patient lies on a treatment table, and inflatable cuffs, similar to those used in blood pressure tests, are wrapped around the entire length of the patient’s legs. The cuffs deflate just as the heart begins to beat and inflate as the heart muscle relaxes.

As the cuffs inflate and deflate, the patient feels the sensation of a strong hug moving upward from the calves, to the thighs and to the buttocks. During the hour-long procedure, patients can relax and talk to visitors, watch TV, listen to music or even take a nap.

When the cuffs inflate they do so in a sequential fashion, so that the blood in the legs is forced upward, toward the heart, which increases blood flow to the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries, unlike other arteries in the body, receive their blood flow during diastole, when the heart is relaxing, instead of when the heart is pumping. ECP therapy also is beneficial in reducing the workload on the heart as it pumps blood to the rest of the body, thereby decreasing vascular resistance.

Wheeling Hospital is the only local facility to offer the alternative, non-invasive treatment and has been providing the therapy for 10 years. But in August, age began taking its toll on the equipment and the therapy was suspended.

Bob Shilling, of Valley Grove had previously completed the therapy and was a candidate again with a referral from his interventional cardiologist, Dr. Gregory Suero. When the 80-year-old was told about the equipment situation, he and his family began searching for a new bed replacement. They conducted research on EECP beds and personally contacted the manufacturer, putting into motion the request process with hospital administration for the equipment replacement."

"Because of the persistence and wonderful generosity of the Shilling family, we can once again offer this treatment, which benefits many patients with heart disease and associated angina," said Becky Frome, director of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Wheeling Hospital, said, "Patients who complete the program see positive results, such has medication reduction, increase in exercise capacity, angina symptom relief and improved quality of life."

ECP is administered as a series of outpatient treatments. Patients receive five one-hour sessions per week for seven weeks, for a total of 35 sessions. The therapy is provided in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Department at Wheeling Hospital’s Howard Long Wellness Center.

For information, call the Cardiac Rehabilitation Department at 304-243-3932.