Hazelene Jackson has lived with high blood pressure since she was 12, more than 40 years. The condition has lead to heath problems including a stroke she suffered a couple years ago.
Now the 53-year-old from Northeast Philadelphia hopes a small pacemaker-like device implanted under her collar bone will accomplish what the seven medications she takes daily cannot: control her blood pressure.
For Jackson, like an estimated 8 million of the 72 million Americans with hypertension, none of the many drugs that treat high blood pressure are enough.
While she has largely recovered from her stroke, Jackson and her doctors know hypertension puts her at heightened risk of another stroke, heart failure, a heart attack, kidney problems and ultimately death.
On Monday, John Blebea, chief of vascular Surgery Temple University Hospital, implanted the device during a five-hour operation at the hospital as part of a clinical trial of its safety and efficacy.
"Hypertension is a major clinical problem in this country," said Blebea. The device being tested "takes advantage of the body's natural pressure sensors to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular function."
Blebea hopes to implant the device - the Rheos Baroreflex Hypertension Therapy System - in at least nine additional patients in the coming year. Temple is the only institution in the region participating in the Rheos trial.
If the trial goes well, and two earlier studies have had positive results, Blebea hopes Rheos will soon be available to many more patients with high blood pressure. The device, made by CVRx, Inc., a private company in Minneapolis, Minn., was recently approved for use in Europe.
Jackson, who went home from the hospital today, called Rheos an early Christmas present that was already allowing her to reduce the number of drugs she takes to three as her doctors test the implant.
Sporting healing wounds on both sides of her neck and on her upper right chest where the implant and wire leads were placed, Jackson said she has more energy and a new lease on life.
"I know I will be around in '08," she said. "It's not even on and I feel like the million dollar person."