At monthly visits, if a patient's target was not met, the voltage was upped to further lower blood pressure.
The device did work well in many patients, the researchers reported. During the first six months, 42 percent of those whose device was turned on got their systolic blood pressure down to 140 mmHg, compared with 24 percent of those whose device was not yet switched on.
In addition, there was a 40 percent reduction in the rate of problems caused by high blood pressure in the group whose device was turned on.
At one year, with the device now active in both groups, 52 percent of the patients reached the blood pressure goal of 140 mmHg, Bisognano said. He added that while using the device patients continued to take their blood pressure medications as usual.
However, there was no further reduction in systolic blood pressure among patients who received baroreflex activation therapy for a year, compared with those who received it for six months, Bisognano's group noted.
There were some safety issues as well. Some patients had problems stemming from the placement of the electrodes in the neck, including permanent nerve damage and complications from the surgery itself. And although most patients (74.8 percent) had no problems, that rate was still below the 82 percent the researchers had been hoping for, Bisognano said.
Approval of the device by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still years away, if ever. While a price tag for the device plus implantation is yet uncertain, Bisognano said he believes the treatment will be cost-effective given the cost of taking care of patients who suffer heart attacks or strokes from hypertension. And he n
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