New high blood pressure treatment

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
April 10, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
About 72 million people in the United States have high blood pressure, a condition that can lead to a stroke or heart attack. But a new device is helping them get it under control.

Seven's on Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

There are some people whose high blood pressure is so hard to control that even a handful of pill each day just reduces blood pressure but never gets it to normal. Now, some researchers are testing an electronic device that triggers the body's natural mechanism to control pressure.

Last year, George Curtis's high blood pressure gave him the scare of his life.

"I woke up one morning just couldn't breathe," Curtis said. "My wife took me to the hospital."

His blood pressure spiked as high as 250 over 150.

"My blood pressure stayed so high I know eventually something's going to happen," Curtis said.

When ten different blood pressure medications couldn't bring his blood pressure down, doctors offered another option.

George became one of the first patients in the U.S. to be implanted with an experimental device, programmed by computer to work with the body's natural mechanism for regulating blood pressure.

"If it goes up, it's supposed to bring it down," Curtis said. "If it goes too low, it's supposed to bring it up."

The device is implanted under George's skin, near his collar bone. Wires follow the right and left carotid arteries in the neck, so the device can send energy to activate the baro-receptors -- the body's natural blood pressure regulator.

As part of the clinical trial, George still takes blood pressure medication, but he believes the implant is what's brought his blood pressure down.

"Before it was like 200 over 110 most of the time," Curtis said. "Now, I'm hitting 125 over 77."

In clinical trials in Europe, over 80 percent of patients showed significantly lower blood pressure after one year.

George's doctor is hopeful he'll see the same results.

"It holds out the hope that we may have a device that can avoid all the side effects of drugs and enable us to control blood pressure," heart specialist Dr. H. B. Karunaratne said.

There's no way George could do this a year ago. Now he says, he doesn't even get tired. With every day, he says he feels better and stronger.

Researchers are still recruiting volunteers for this blood pressure device study. Patients must be under age 80, with systolic pressure over 160, diastolic pressure over 80. And they must be on at least two blood pressure medications and a diuretic.

High blood pressure can occur occasionally in children, but it's more common among people over age 35. It's particularly common in African-Americans, middle-aged and elderly people, obese people, heavy drinkers and women on birth control pills.

For more on this device and the study, go to or call 1-866-518-8478.