Small device for high blood pressure evaluated

School of Medicine researchers are evaluating whether an investigational device can help patients with hard-to-treat high blood pressure keep their blood pressure in check.

Similar to a pacemaker, the iPod-sized device is implanted in the chest with wires that carry electrical signals to nerve receptors along the carotid arteries in the neck. The signals activate the body’s natural pressure-lowering mechanisms.

“The device is designed to fool the brain into thinking a person’s blood pressure is much higher than it really is,” said Marcos Rothstein, M.D., professor of medicine and lead investigator of a U.S. study evaluating the device. “The brain, as the body’s central command center, responds by slowing the heart rate, relaxing the blood vessels and filtering more salt and water from the kidneys — all of which lower blood pressure.”

In March, Rothstein presented data from a small multicenter trial of the device. Three years after it was implanted, 38 people with uncontrollable high blood pressure had reduced their systolic blood pressure (top number) by an average of 31 points and diastolic pressure (bottom number) by 21 points.

Rothstein, now leading a larger study, is seeking to enroll 300 U.S. patients, including 25 in St. Louis. The device is experimental and its maker, CVRx Inc., plan to submit data from the larger trial for U.S. approval.

For more information, contact Lisa Murphy at or 747-3601.