A tiny titanium ‘butterfly’ implanted in the neck could give hope to half a million British patients blighted by drug-resistant high blood pressure, dramatically reducing their risk of stroke, heart attacks and dementia.
In American trials, the baked-bean-size device – a featherlight, four-sided wire cage – has been able to improve patients’ prospects where medication had failed to do so.
Some, who still suffered high blood pressure despite being on the highest doses of medication, saw their readings drop to normal levels within months.
Although patients are still required to take tablets, their dose may be significantly reduced. Given European approval last year, the device, called MobiusHD, is now set to be offered to a select group of patients as part of a trial led by British experts.
The wire implant sits in a branch of one of the carotid arteries – the major blood vessels that run up either side of the neck, supplying the head. It applies gentle tension to bundles of nerves that are involved in regulating blood pressure.
These nerves, called baroreceptors, detect changes in blood pressure and send signals to the brain so it can make the necessary changes to keep blood pressure at safe levels.
Normally, when the walls of the carotid arteries are stretched by untreated high blood pressure, or hypertension, the baroreceptors signal to the brain to bring the blood pressure back to its normal level. The heart rate changes, causing blood vessels to dilate or constrict, and affecting how much fluid the kidneys excrete.
MobiusHD is now going to be offered to a select group of patients
However, it’s thought that in drug-resistant patients, long-term raised blood pressure causes the baroreceptors to malfunction and set the body’s resting blood pressure at a dangerously high level. The reason some people’s pressure-regulating system stops functioning properly is not clear, but it is thought to be due to genetic or lifestyle factors.
The MobiusHD was designed so that it exerts pressure on these nerves, tricking the brain into thinking blood pressure is consistently raised.
It then signals to the body to lower the heart rate and widen the blood vessels, helping ‘reset’ the system.
Dutch cardiologist Dr Jan van der Heyden, who has been using