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First NHS patients receive new therapy for people with uncontrollable high blood pressure

The internationally recognised Barts Blood Pressure Clinic is the first hospital to provide two NHS patients with the innovative Barostim Neo™ device.

Around 16 million people suffer from high blood pressure in the UK. If left untreated, the condition can have serious health implications. Sufferers are three times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke, and are twice as likely to die from these conditions as people with normal blood pressure.

Often people can control high blood pressure through diet and exercise, or with medication. However, others – including an estimated 4% of adults in London – live with resistant hypertension, a severe form of high blood pressure that cannot be controlled with drug therapy, putting them at constant high risk.

Barostim Therapy™ is delivered using an implantable pulse generator that is placed under the skin in the chest, like a pacemaker, which is slightly larger than a two-pound coin, and connected to a lead, located next to the carotid artery in the neck while the patient is under anaesthetic in a placement procedure that lasts about an hour.

Unlike current treatment options, the Barostim neo can be programmed to tune into the cardiovascular system – the body’s natural blood pressure control system – to send signals to the brain using the body’s baroreceptors that act as sensors to measure and control blood pressure.

The procedure results in a bespoke method to reduce high blood pressure that is specific and unique to each patient’s needs, including by relaxing blood vessels, slowing the heart rate and reducing fluid in the body.

Dr Melvin Lobo, Consultant Cardiovascular Physician and Director of the Barts Blood Pressure Clinic at Barts Health NHS Trust, explained:“If successful, the treatment could provide new hope as an alternative option for treating high blood pressure in the future – particularly when standard therapies have failed. “My hope is that the treatment will lead to a dramatic reduction in the very dangerous risks these patients live with every day, and free them from the huge restrictions that arise from uncontrollable hypertension that often force them to stop working or can prevent them from caring for their children.”

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The two patients treated at The Royal London Hospital both suffer from particularly dangerous severe resistant hypertension and had not responded to multiple drug treatment strategies. Both have also experienced numerous hospital admissions with hypertensive crises. After the procedure they will continue to be carefully monitored and, if successful, the therapy could be rolled out to more patients.

Dr Lobo concluded: “It’s important that the UK evaluates this innovative therapy in a cautious and proper manner, and that we continue to monitor patients’ outcomes to ensure that the therapy is both safe and highly effective. This is a truly exceptional day for Barts Health NHS Trust – we are taking a huge leap towards finding a way to treat this selected patient population which otherwise is currently without hope.”

James Blann at CVRx said:“This is the first time since its European approval in 2011 that Barostim Therapy has been able to be offered to UK patients who are suffering from resistant hypertension and are at considerable risk. The published long term clinical results of this therapy are excellent (six years and counting), it’s included within the European Society of Cardiology guidelines as a therapy to consider for this patient population, and is being used to treat approximately 40 patients per month across Europe. It’s fantastic that such a renowned centre as The Barts Blood Pressure Clinic is able to lead the way in bringing this much needed therapy to the UK.”

Case study

Claire Hawkes, 42 years old from Romford, Essex, a mother of two young children aged 14 and 16, is one of the two patients to undergo Barostim.

Claire’s extremely high blood pressure seriously affects her life, particularly after suffering a heart attack in 2014. It has stunted any possibility for Claire to carry on doing the activities she loves, such as football – playing and coaching – coupled with dog walking and horse riding.

Claire continued: “It’s exciting to have this new hope. If I am able to get even a quarter of my life back then I will consider it a success. I often feel completely drained, breathless with severe headaches and chest pains.

Dr Lobo has been fantastically supportive and has been with me every step of the way.”