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New way to treat drug-resistant high blood pressure tested in Michigan

February 6, 2012
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In what leading specialists predict could be a game-changer, a metro Detroit hospital has begun a study of a new minimally invasive procedure for treating drug-resistant high blood pressure, a major public health problem affecting 76 million Americans that causes heart attacks, strokes and other heart disease complications.

The first Michigan patient — and seventh in the U.S. — to undergo the treatment is Mary Askar, 37, a Macomb Township mother of four who was resting this week after undergoing the procedure at St. John Providence Hospital in Southfield. Her blood pressure has been exceptionally high at 200/130, far above desired levels, despite the nine drugs she takes. Askar said her doctors told her “if I don’t do something, it’s going to kill me.” She described her life as miserable because she is always tired and sleepy, and has headaches.

Three otherMichigansites inDetroitandAnn Arboralso will participate in the Symplicity HTN-3 study. The study is testing a device by Medtronic that is threaded up into a leg artery to two kidney arteries that play a role in high blood pressure. During a 40-minute procedure, a heating device called a radio frequency ablation tool is snaked up the thin tube to zap nerves in the arteries. The zapping interferes with chemicals that elevate blood pressure.

Two-thirds of the 530 patients nationwide will get the treatment. The rest — a control group — will undergo an angiogram but not get the heat treatment at first. After six months, those patients also can get the renal denervation procedure if needed.

“This is a chance we were willing to take,” said Askar, who feared, along with her family, she might develop a life-threatening reaction, even die from the dye used in angiograms.

Overseas studies have found that 84% of the patients getting the renal treatment had a significant drop in their blood pressure, causing a 30-point decline in systolic blood pressure numbers and a 12-point decrease in the diastolic numbers, said Dr. Susan Steigerwalt, director of the Resistant Hypertension Laboratory atProvidence.

“If it works out the way it has in Europe andAustralia, it will be a game-changer in the treatment of high blood pressure,” said Dr. Kirit Patel, chair of the division of cardiology at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland inPontiac. Added Dr. Hitinder Gurm, an interventional cardiologist at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center: “The results so far have looked fabulous.”

If proven effective, Dr. Shukri David, chief of cardiology atProvidence, says he believes the therapy eventually could help people who take less blood pressure medicine or who have unwanted side effects from the medicines.

Contact Patricia Anstett: 313-222-5021 or panstett@freepress.com

More Details: How to participate in the trial

The followingMichigancenters will participate in the Symplicity HTN-3 trial. Patients must be ages 18-80, have a systolic blood pressure reading higher than 160 mmHG (millimeters of mercury) and be taking at least three doses of blood pressure medicines, one of which must be a diuretic.

St. John Providence Hospital, Southfield. 248-849-3369.

St. Joseph Mercy-Oakland, Pontiac, 248-858-6962.

Harper University Hospital, Detroit,WayneStateUniversitySchool of Medicine, 313-993-0419.

St. Joseph Mercy, Ann Arbor, 734-712-7602.

More Details: High blood pressure

Blood pressure is measured with two numbers written like a fraction.

The top number — which is larger — represents systolic pressure, when the heart is contracting. The lower number measures diastolic pressure between beats, when the heart is relaxed.

Blood pressure of 140/90 indicates high blood pressure.

Every time the systolic number increases by 20 points or the diastolic number increases by 10 points, a person’s risk of a heart attack, stroke and other problems doubles.

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