A trial now underway may offer them new hope. It is testing the Rheos Baroreflex Hypertension Therapy System, a small electronic device (with a big name) that is implanted under the collarbone. Wire leads from it are attached to the left and right carotid arteries, where they send electrical impulses that activate the body's own blood pressure control system and tell the brain to reduce blood pressure.
USC is one center for the trial. Anyone interested in enrolling can contact the Hypertension Center there at (323) 442-6293. Only patients who are currently taking three drugs and whose blood pressure remains over 160 are eligible.
Results of the trial (called the Rheos Pivotal Trial) are expected in 2011. Preliminary results have been impressive, says Dr. Mitra Nadim, director of the Hypertension Center at USC. In one early trial, 13 patients had an average systolic reduction of 29 mm Hg (from 189 to 160) after three months and 39 mm Hg (from 189 to 150) after a year.