Surgery for blood pressure

Published: Thursday 31 December 1998

An experimental surgery may be useful in treating high blood pressure that does not respond to treatment or where patients experience unacceptable side effects from antihypertensive drugs. In the technique, called ventrolateral medullary decompression, a Teflon implant is used to reduce pressure on two cranial nerves near the medulla oblongata, in the brain. The technique lowered blood pressure in seven out of eight patients to the point that they could substantially reduce their medication, according to the lead author H Geiger of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. The patients in the study had all tried at least three or more drugs unsuccessfully, and each had at least one potentially life-threatening crisis due to uncontrolled hypertension. However, it is still too early to recommend such surgery to be used widely as high blood pressure can be due to a num- ber of factors. "This technique does, however, offer an alternative for patients with intractable hyperten- sion," Geiger writes (The Lancet, Vol 352, No 9126).

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