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Advocate Christ Medical Center news

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Inflating and Deflating Leg Cuffs Gave Her Heart the Needed Boost, and Now She's Enjoying Life Again

Oak Lawn, Ill. – Christina Ross had no life.  She was suffering painful angina attacks – as often as several times a day, was unable to exercise, napped frequently and could not perform the simplest of tasks without getting out of breath.  Even grocery shopping took her two or more days to complete. 

But, that all changed after physicians at Advocate Christ Medical Center placed around her legs a set of cuffs that inflated and deflated in synchronization with the beating of her heart.  The treatment, called External Enhanced Counterpulsation or EECP, was applied for an hour a day during the course of a seven-week period and did what no medication was able to accomplish – relieved her angina, boosted her energy levels and kept her out of the hospital.

“EECP gave back to me my quality of life,” said Christina, who resides in the Bloomington-Normal area of Central Illinois.  “I exercise three days a week now by riding a stationary bike – something I couldn’t do before.  I very rarely need a nap and I can enjoy my grandchildren by attending their sports events.  My husband and I are traveling, and I can actually do my grocery shopping in one day rather than the two or three days it used to take me.

“We had basically exhausted all of Christina’s local options for treating her coronary disease,” said her longtime cardiologist, James McCriskin, DO, who is an Advocate Medical Group physician and serves as medical director of cardiology services at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal.  “I knew that Advocate Christ Medical Center was the only place in the area offering EECP, and Christina was willing to make the commitment to go there for several weeks to receive the treatment.

“She had an amazing response to it,” he added.  “The last time I saw her, she was doing very well. She feels like she has recaptured her life.” 

“We have been using EECP primarily to treat patients who are suffering from angina or chest pain and whose condition has not been adequately controlled by medication,” said Marc Silver, MD, chair of the department of medicine and director of the heart failure program at Christ Medical Center.

EECP involves the placement of external cuffs around the legs of a patient while the patient lies on a specially-equipped hospital bed.  The cuffs work with the patient’s heart cycle.  They inflate when the heart is at rest, forcing blood back into the arteries that feed blood and oxygen to the heart, and then rapidly deflate as the heart pumps, minimizing resistance so that the blood can readily leave the heart and flow out to the rest of the body.

“The effects of the treatment are sustained for a long period of time – three years to five years or more,” Dr. Silver said. “We know that EECP improves blood flow in the heart by promoting the growth of small heart blood vessels.  It also enhances the ability of blood vessels to open and dilate normally and helps decrease inflammation in the body, even changing the gene signal that turns on the inflammatory protein.”

EECP is not necessarily for everyone with angina or chest pain, however.  “Patients with advanced heart failure or heart volume overload are not candidates for the treatment,” Dr. Silver said.

Meanwhile, “I could tell within the first week of undergoing treatments that EECP was helping me, because I was no longer out of breath when I walked the slight incline up to the hospital lobby,” Christina said during a recent clinic visit to Christ Medical Center. 

Since undergoing treatments last year, Christina said she has experienced no return of her angina.  “I have been hospital-free,” she stated.

Note: Check out the EECP video and Christina’s story by clicking on this link: EECP: Treating Angina With Every Beat of the Heart

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About Advocate Christ Medical Center
Advocate Christ Medical Center is part of Advocate Health Care, which is one of the nation’s leading health care networks. A not-for-profit, 694-bed, premier teaching institution with more than 1,000 affiliated physicians, Christ Medical Center is a leader in health care and one of the major referral hospitals in the Midwest in a number of specialties, including cardiovascular services, heart and kidney transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, orthopedics and women’s health. The hospital also has one of the busiest Level I trauma centers in Illinois providing emergency care for more than 90,000 patient visits annually and is a leader in breakthrough technologies, including eICU® (electronic intensive care unit) monitoring, robotic da Vinci Surgery System® and CyberKnife® Radiosurgery.  In both 2012 and 2013, the medical center was named to the Truven Health 100 Top Hospitals®, while U.S. News & World Report ranked the medical center among the nation’s leading providers for cardiology and heart surgery and for geriatric medicine and ranked it fourth overall among hospitals in the state of Illinois. The hospital is also recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) as a Magnet Center. Magnet status represents the highest honor in the nursing profession. To obtain more information or to visit our newsroom, log on to:


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