Hypertension Treatment Shows Promise

Early Show - heartscore - Feb. 20, 2009
High blood pressure, aka hypertension, affects 72 million Americans and is the cause of one in every eight deaths worldwide. But there just may be a new treatment out there for the millions of patients who can't control their blood pressure without medication.

Early Show correspondent Debbye Turner Bell went to Pittsburgh's Allegeny General Hospital to learn about a new device, and meet a very fortunate patient.

Hazel Daly is 70 years old and has been struggling with uncontrolled hypertension for years.

"When I got up in the morning, I didn't know if I could do anything for the day or not," Daly said.

Daly's blood pressure was consistently over 200 and at times above 300, keeping a normal life was next to impossible.

"Doctors didn't want me to move around, afraid I would explode," Daly said.

As her blood pressure remained uncontrolled, her risk of dying increased.

"How worried were you about her?" Bell asked Dr. George Sokos, cardiologist at Allegheny General Hospital.

"Very worried. Very worried to the point that we thought, you know, we need to do something. And luckily for us, we were involved in this study," Sokos said.

Daly joined a clinical trial that tests the effectiveness of a small implantable device no bigger than a cell phone that works to lower blood pressure.

"This box gets connected to these electrical leads through a simple wire. And this gets implanted in the chest," Sokos said.

The small battery pack sends electrical pulses through wires to the caratoid arteries. The brain interprets those pulses as a rise in blood pressure and in return works to counteract the rise and bring blood pressure back down.

"This device has been remarkable to this point," said Dr. Satish Muluk, Director of Vascular Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital.

The results so far have shown that 75 percent of the patients in the trial have seen a significant drop in blood pressure.

"I've been hospitalized just for high blood pressure on more than one occasion," said patient Tom Pariso, who received his implant five months ago. "Just knowing that it's down, you feel safer."

The implant has given Daly and Pariso a new lease on life.

"And how's her blood pressure?" Bell asked.

"Unbelievably controlled. It's amazing," Muluk said.

"I do more through the day without stopping and resting. It's given me a second chance on life," Daily said.

The clinical trial at the Cardiovascular Institute at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh is still looking for patients. For more information on taking part, click here.