Electronic "hot pants" offer new hope to heart patients

30 September 2009

People with chronic heart disease are being given a new lease of life at Spire Bristol Hospital – thanks to a pair of “electronic trousers”.

Surgeons at the hospital are the first in the South West to treat patients using the trousers, which boost blood supply to the lower part of the body and simultaneously relieve pressure on the heart.    

The therapy – known as Enhanced External Counter Pulsation – involves sections of cotton trousers fitted with Velcro pads being attached to the patient’s calves, thighs and buttocks, similar to the “G suits” worn by fighter pilots.

Air is pumped through the trousers, which are synchronised with the patient’s heart beat through an ECG machine. This has the beneficial effect of pushing blood back to the patient’s heart and increasing blood flow through the coronary arteries.

Experts say the treatment is effective and non-invasive, particularly for patients who have exhausted other more invasive therapy options such as Angioplasty and open heart surgery.

“This technology is a first for the South West, and also for the Spire Group and its 36 hospitals across the UK,” says Dr Andrew Skyrme-Jones, a cardiologist at Spire Bristol Hospital.

“EECP is not a substitute for an operation when that is possible, but for patients with severe coronary disease or angina who have gone beyond angioplasty or coronary bypass surgery, it is an effective way of giving them a much more active life when their symptoms do not respond to more traditional treatments.”

Consultant cardiac surgeon Franco Ciulli adds: “It is thought that the pumping action stimulates the creation of tiny new arteries that join up and increase the blood flow, thereby improving the patient’s symptoms – effectively performing a ‘DIY bypass’

“Unlike other treatments, EECP also has the advantage of being non-invasive and is actually a form of passive exercise for the patient.

“More and more Primary Care Trusts are beginning to fund the technology now, and we firmly believe it is a major development in cardiac care which could potentially prolong the lives of a great number of people who would otherwise have given up hope.”

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