Deep Brain Stimulation for Stubborn Hypertension
Case Study Suggests Stimulating Brain With Electrical Impulses May Treat High Blood Pressure
Blood Pressure Control
The doctors report that their patient, immediately following his stroke, had spiking blood pressure that ranged from 153/89 to 265/96. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower.
Even after taking a combination of four different hypertension medications, the man was unable to get his blood pressure down, and eventually, though he regained movement after being partially paralyzed by his stroke, he developed a chronic pain.
Doctors tried for three years to control their patient’s pain, without success. So they agreed that he might be a candidate for deep brain stimulation, which can sometimes be helpful for people who can’t find relief any other way.
At first, the neurostimulator seemed to help the pain, and when doctor’s measured their patient’s blood pressure, they were surprised to find that it had dropped significantly -- to as low as 80/53.
They took the patient off all his hypertension medications, and his blood pressure normalized to an average of110/65 in the first eight weeks after surgery. Within 12 weeks, his blood pressure had inched back up only slightly to 124/76.
After four months, the pain relief from the electrical stimulation wore off, but his blood pressure stayed down.
After more than two years, with blood pressure still near normal, his doctors tested his response by switching the neurostimulator on and off.
When the device was off, his blood pressure increased by about 18/5 points. When it was turned back on, his blood pressure dropped by 33/13 points.
Drug-Resistant High Blood Pressure
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about one in three Americans has high blood pressure. Studies suggest that about one in eight people being treated for hypertension can’t get their blood pressure under control, even on three or more medications.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to myriad health problems including heart and kidney failure, eye damage and blindness, strokes and heart attacks, dementia, and erectile dysfunction.
When medication fails, newer surgical interventions -- including renal nerve ablation, where nerves in the major arteries of the kidneys are zapped and deactivated with radiofrequency energy, and carotid baroreceptor stimulation, where electrodes stimulate nerves near major arteries that supply blood to the brain -- may be options that can help reduce the risks of major complications from very high blood pressure.