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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 October, 2004, 23:28 GMT 00:28 UK
Vibrating trousers treat angina
Image of the trousers
The leg cuffs inflate and deflate
UK angina patients are being offered a novel treatment - vibrating trousers.

The treatment, called Enhanced External Counterpulsation or EECP, works by increasing blood flow to the heart.

Long inflatable cuffs, like those used to measure blood pressure, are wrapped around the patient's calves, thighs and buttocks.

The cuffs inflate and deflate with each heartbeat, pushing the blood up the leg towards the heart, while an ECG heart monitor checks the heart rate.

Stopping angina

Angina is the feeling of pain, heaviness, tightness, burning or squeezing in the chest.

It occurs when the main arteries of the heart are partially or completely blocked, starving the heart muscle of oxygen and nutrients.

The results are not only beyond our expectations, a small number of patients have done so well their lives have been transformed.
Consultant cardiologist Dr Chris Morley

Conventional treatment includes drugs and surgery, such as bypass grafts, stenting and angioplasty, to improve blood flow and reduce the workload on the heart.

In some patients, all of these treatments fail to work.

It is these patients who might benefit from EECP treatment, cardiologists believe.

It comprises a one-off course of treatment, involving hourly sessions five days a week for seven weeks.

During each session, patient lies on a special treatment bed and have the cuffs wrapped around their legs.

'Vibrating trousers'

When the heart is resting the cuffs inflate and then deflate again just before each heart beat.

The sequential inflation and deflation of the cuffs increases blood flow to the heart and encourages tiny new blood vessels to grow around the blocked arteries to feed the heart.

NHS support

Dr Chris Morley, consultant cardiologist at the Yorkshire Clinic in Bradford, which is offering EECP, said: "It's been remarkable. They are very ill patients.

"We have now treated about 30 patients in the last 18 months and the results are not only beyond our expectations, a small number of patients have done so well their lives have been transformed."

Other units around the UK using the treatment include the Nuffield Hospital in Leeds, the Alexandra Hospital in Manchester and the Cromwell Hospital in London.

A full course of treatment costs anywhere between 2,400 and 10,500, depending on individual clinic's prices.

The Bradford unit has full NHS support, and the Manchester and London units have limited NHS support, making it essentially a treatment for private patients.

The Castle Hill Hospital in Hull has been treating NHS patients with EECP since 2000.

Most of the main health insurers in the UK will pay for the treatment if it is indicated, according to Vasogenics, the company supplying EECP in the UK.

Alison Shaw from the British Heart Foundation, said: "This technique has yielded promising results for some people with heart disease - particularly those already on heavy medication and for whom surgery is not an option."

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