Brain Surgery Treats Hypertension?

Patient with treatment-resistant hypertension happens to benefit from deep-brain stimulation

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Deep-brain stimulation (DBS), which incorporates a surgical implant similar to a cardiac pacemaker that sends electrical pulses to the brain, may provide relief from treatment-resistant high blood pressure.

Researchers from Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, England, were curious to learn about DBS effects on blood pressure after a 55-year-old man who received DBS treatment for pain following stroke (known as central pain syndrome) was able to stop taking four blood pressure medications for treatment-resistant hypertension when the DBS device proved effective in lowering his blood pressure.

The patient was treated with a prescription for a short while with blood-pressure medication, which was withdrawn when his blood pressure returned to normal levels (below 140 mmHg over 90 mmHg).

When researchers turned off the DBS device, the patient's blood pressure increased by 18/5 mmHg, and when the stimulator was reactivated, his blood pressure dropped an average of 32/12 mmHg. A repeat of the test produced the same results.

The electrical stimulation did not relieve his pain, however.

Nikunj K. Patel, MD, of Frenchay Hospital, said about 1 in 10 hypertensive patients cannot control their blood pressure through medication alone. He said the decrease in blood pressure was a direct result of DBS and not related to other conditions in this instance.

The patient's blood pressure lowered significantly and remained controlled for three years following the DBS surgery. The device was implanted in the periaqueductal-periventricular grey region of the brain, which is devoted to pain regulation (the electrical stimulation did not relieve his pain, however).

Patel said more research is needed to prove DBS safety and efficacy for hypertensive patients, but added, with so many people not responding to treatment, "we are in need of alternative therapies such as this one."

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Review Date: 
January 25, 2011
Last Updated:
January 25, 2011