Tricking high blood pressure

FRESNO, Calif.

Going for a walk isn't a problem for Sunni and Dayli anymore, now that their owner's blood pressure is under control. But it wasn't always the case. Robert is one of 27 million Americans with resistant hypertension.

"My blood pressure was out of control and it would have led to my death," Robert Breece told Action News.

Doctors diagnose resistant hypertension when blood pressure stays high despite taking at least three drugs. Robert was taking seven.

"I've taken many drugs over the years, trying to find combinations that work," Robert said.

But nothing did. So when doctor Dominic Sica told Robert about an investigational implant that could help him control his blood pressure, he decided to give it a try, even if it was a mind trick of sorts.

"It is trickery at its finest physiological point of view," Domenic Sica, M.D., a professor of medicine and pharmacology, and director of the Blood Pressure Disorders Unit at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, explained.

Here's how it works, the hypertension device is implanted into the chest and attaches two electrodes to the carotid arteries. It then sends a signal to the brain, fooling it into thinking the blood pressure is higher than it is.

"The brain then says 'let me turn off various pathways' by which then brain controls blood pressure and when that happens those mechanisms are down regulated and the blood pressure tends to come down," Dr. Sica said.

Patients may still need to take some medications. Robert went from seven to four and his blood pressure dropped from 225 over 125 to 128 over 68.

"It's made a huge difference. I don't worry about my blood pressure," Robert said.

Now he can focus his attention on what matters, his two best friends.

The device is not for everyone. It is designed for people who have severe cases of high blood pressure that can't be controlled with medication. Patients must also be committed to having the battery surgically replaced every few years.

Domenic A. Sica, M.D.
Virginia Commonwealth University Health System
(804) 828-2223

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