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Deep Brain Stimulation Might Ease Tough-to-Treat Hypertension
Date:1/24/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors administering deep brain stimulation to control a patient's severe pain report that they discovered the treatment consistently lowered the man's hard-to-control high blood pressure.

The finding introduces the possibility that deep brain stimulation -- a surgical implant that delivers electrical pulses to the brain -- might one day become a treatment for drug-resistant hypertension or lead to clues about the brain's role in regulating blood pressure.

The study is reported in the Jan. 25 print issue of the journal Neurology.

About 10 percent of high blood pressure cases either can't be controlled with medication or patients cannot tolerate them, study author Dr. Nikunj K. Patel, a neurosurgeon at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, England, said in a journal news release.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure affects 30 percent of American adults. The condition raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.

"It's a really interesting paper," said Dr. Nicholas D. Schiff, director of the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuromodulation at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "I thought it was compelling, though single cases are always questionable" to generalize.

In the case study, a 55-year-old man was implanted with a deep brain stimulator to treat severe pain stemming from a stroke. Although the patient was taking four drugs to control his high blood pressure, which was diagnosed at the time of his stroke, his blood pressure had remained high.

The man's blood pressure gradually decreased enough for him to stop taking all blood pressure medications, though the deep brain stimulation failed to control his pain long-term. When researchers tested turning off the stimulator after two years, the patient's blood pressure rose significantly.

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