BACKGROUND: Researchers have developed an implantable device that lowers blood pressure by activating the body's natural blood pressure regulation systems, rather than relying on drugs. It is currently in clinical trials at the University of Rochester Medical Center, among other locations around the country.
HOW IT WORKS: The Rheos system electrically activates the body's system for regulating blood pressure. Electrical signals are sent to the central nervous system, and the body interprets this as a rise in blood pressure. So the brain counteracts this by sending signals in response to dilate blood vessels. This allows blood to flow more freely, reducing the heart rate and encouraging the kidneys to release fluid. The Rheos system consists of a battery-operated implantable generator, inserted under the skin near the collarbone, and two "leads" that run from the generator to left and right carotid sinus in the neck.
BENEFITS: Reducing blood pressure is associated with lowering the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease. The device offers hope to patients who have not been able to control their blood pressure with medications.
WHAT IS BLOOD PRESSURE: Blood pressure is the force in the arteries when the heart beats, and when the heart is at rest. When blood pressure is high, there is an increased risk of heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and stroke. It is most common in adults over age 35, and is especially prevalent in African Americans, the middle-aged and elderly, obese people, heavy drinkers, and women who are taking birth control pills. Those with diabetes, gout or kidney disease are also prone to suffer from high blood pressure.