Patient’s High BP Treated by Keck Surgeons

Robert Longo, the first patient on the West Coast to receive the Rheos device to lower uncontrollably high blood pressure, prepares for it to be activated.

Photo/Jennifer Chan

In the first such procedure on the West Coast, USC surgeons recently treated a patient’s previously uncontrollable high blood pressure with an implanted medical device.

The patient is one of the first to be studied in the Rheos Pivotal Trial, a study of an implantable medical device that sends electrical impulses to the brain to activate the body’s own blood pressure control system.

“A small percentage of the population with hypertension does not respond to medications or lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise,” said Fred Weaver, chief of the division of vascular surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and lead trial investigator. “As a result, extreme high blood pressure significantly increases their risk for cardiovascular disease or death.

“The Rheos Therapy is an innovative treatment that is designed to electrically activate the body’s own monitoring system to watch and control blood pressure,” said Weaver, who is also affiliated with USC’s Cardiovascular Thoracic Institute. “This ‘physiological rational’ treatment takes advantage of the function of the body’s natural pressure sensors to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular function.”

Robert Longo, a 50-year-old Burbank resident, received the Rheos Baroreflex Hypertension Therapy System, which was activated in January. Similar to a pacemaker, the electronic device is implanted under the collarbone.

The wire leads are threaded from the device to points on the left and right carotid arteries. The leads send electrical impulses that activate the baroreflex, the body’s own blood pressure control system, and signals to the brain to reduce blood pressure.

“Before the operation, Robert’s systolic blood pressure ranged in the 180s while on four medications. That is extremely high. After initial tests, his blood pressure dropped by 45 points,” said Mitra Nadim, co-director of the USC Center for Hypertension and Renovascular Care. “This is really exciting to see such a quick and drastic improvement in Robert’s blood pressure. We’ve been treating him with medications without much improvement. We hope this device will provide a long-term solution to his health.”

About 65 million people in the United States suffer from hypertension, which can affect individuals of any age, gender or race.

Twenty-five percent of the people with hypertension have uncontrolled high blood pressure, despite the use of medications. It is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, morbidity and mortality and is estimated to cause one in every eight deaths worldwide.

“I have been diagnosed with high blood pressure for about eight years,” Longo said. “Now that the surgery to implant the device is over, I hope that with it, my blood pressure can be lowered enough that statistically I can live a longer and healthier life.”