Discs about the size of a U.S quarter are being implanted in patient’s wrists to help control their high blood pressure. The discs emit electrical pulses to help stimulate nerves in the arm which then signals to blood pressure control centers in the brain. The initial results of a study being done on 50 patients show that blood pressure has been lowered significantly, compared to patients who received a placebo. The United States will soon be conducting a wider study of 300 patients to find new approaches to solve the problem of high blood pressure or hypertension.  One in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure, and many are untreated because the condition does not always have obvious symptoms. Left untreated, hypertension can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

High blood pressure is usually controlled with ACE inhibitors or calcium channel blocking agents to widen blood vessels. Some patients do not respond to these medications or can’t tolerate the side effects, which can include dizziness, stomach upset or a dry cough.

The new study will build on previous approaches to develop treatments involving the nervous system to help control blood pressure.  In one new procedure, called renal denervation, tiny nerves in the lining of the arteries of the kidney are destroyed to stop faulty signals to the brain. This procedure has resulted in reducing the production of hormones in the kidneys that increase blood pressure.

The implants, called eCoins, are another way to treat blood pressure by manipulating the nervous system. The coins are implanted under the skin in each forearm a few inches above the wrist, and over the median nerve, which runs down the arm. The nerve then transmits signals to different areas of the brain that control blood pressure, and helps “reset” the brain’s signals concerning blood pressure.

The procedure to implant the coin takes about 20 minutes under a local anesthetic. Once the device is implanted, it sends pulses of electricity once a week for 30 minutes. The study took place in New Zealand, Taiwan and Canada last year. The results show that the implant reduced blood pressure by 16.7 mmHg, much higher than the placebo group, according to the report in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension (ashjournal.com).

Source: The Daily Mail, “Can a coin in the wrist help cut your high blood pressure? Small disc emitting pulses of electricity can affect the brain’s control centres,” by Roger Dobson, January 23, 2017

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