In matters of heart, Kerala explores new method

June 12th, 2008 - 12:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, June 12 (IANS) More and more people with cardiac ailments in Kerala - where heart diseases account for over 40 percent of all deaths - are opting for a non-surgical procedure called enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP). Currently the Doctors Diagnostic Nuclear Medicine and Research Centre (DDNMRC) in the heart of the capital is the only hospital in the state that uses this non-risk method to treat patients. There are only 20 other hospitals in India that conduct this procedure.

Ajith Joy, a nuclear cardiologist at DDNMRC, told IANS that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the procedure in 1995, but it became available in India only in 2006 and DDNMRC began using it to treat patients a year ago. Since then, about 60 people have been treated using EECP at the hospital here.

“Initially, I treated around three to five patients in a month but now the number has increased to about 10. More importantly, the number of people wanting to know what EECP is all about has doubled. We get an average of 10 calls everyday,” Joy said.

“This treatment involves 35 hours of non-surgical outpatient treatment where pneumatic cuffs (like cuffs to measure blood pressure) are placed around the calves, thighs and buttocks.

“They are timed to inflate in progression - starting with the section around the calves - when the heart reaches its resting phase between beats. As each cuff inflates, it squeezes blood out of the legs and back to the heart,” he said.

Joy added that every day the patient undergoing the treatment can come to the clinic and return to his office or home and continue with his regular routine.

“EECP is not a direct alternative for a coronary artery bypass graft surgery but can be done on patients who have already undergone a bypass or cannot undergo a bypass for various reasons. This has no conflict zones with a bypass surgery,” he said.

EECP is also advisable for those who suffer from chronic fatigue, Parkinson’s disease, memory disorder and erectile dysfunction.

Joy said the cost of the treatment for 35 days is Rs.120,000 and the hospital gets a large number of inquires from people in the Middle East, where EECP is not available. The treatment is currently done in over 1,500 centres in the US but costs over $10,000.

C.V.G. Nair, a retired government employee, was a chronic heart patient. He said it was very difficult for him to walk even a few steps without pain.

“I was evaluated for EECP treatment, which was done last year and I am extremely delighted that I could come get back energy to live life to the fullest,” said Nair.

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