Doctors test new hypertension treatment

No matter what Bob Longo did his blood pressure continued to shoot up. It used to hover around 220 over 150.

"It was too high. I maxed out on all those five drugs, the five medications. It seemed to be rising year to year," said Longo.

Doctors told him to exercise, but medications were preventing his efforts.

"It caused a lot of fatigue to the point when I went upstairs I was out of breath. It really tired me out a lot," said Longo.

An estimated 70 million Americans have hypertension and even with diet, exercise and multiple medications, 30 percent have the kind that is difficult to control.

"The medications aren't working. They're walking around with blood pressures around 150 to 200," said Dr. Fred Weaver, USC Chief of Vascular Surgery.

So a new implantable device can take over. It's called the Rheos, and it does what the body is supposed to do naturally. It stimulates receptors on the carotid artery which signals the brain to send out hormones to lower the body's blood pressure.

"Basically you put these leads on both sides so it is around both carotid bodies. So we have a small incision here and small incision there, and this box is like a pacemaker. It basically goes in a pocket subcutaneously on the chest," said Dr. Weaver.

The implant is still in clinical trials, and patients may run a rare risk of infection and nerve injury, but experts say the benefits outweigh the risks of living with high blood pressure.

"In a matter of a couple of years you can develop heart disease, problems with the eyes, the kidneys," said USC nephrologist Dr. Mitra Nadim.

Once the device is in, the effects can be seen instantly.

"When they turn it off the blood pressure goes right back up. So I know it is working. When they turn it on it goes right back down," said Bob Longo.

And Bob is back to leading an active life.

"I'm back to being able to ride my bike again and all the things that I was having difficulty doing on the medications," said Longo.

The clinical trials for the Rheos device is continuing at USC. The study is open to people with severe hypertension. In order to be eligible you need to have tried three drugs that haven't worked.


- Get more L.A. breaking news, weather, traffic and sports
- Have a news tip? Send your tips, video, or pictures

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.