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

( — 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 other Michigan sites in Detroit and Ann Arbor also 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 at Providence.


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