Harvard Heart Letter

On the horizon: A pacemaker to lower blood pressure

For some people with hypertension, exercise, diet, and three or four pills aren't enough to bring blood pressure under control. A pacemaker-like device called the Rheos system, made by Minneapolis-based CVRx, could someday offer extra help for fighting resistant hypertension.

The device works with the body's baroreceptors. These are sensors that continually monitor blood pressure from their posts on each carotid artery in the neck. When blood pressure rises, the baroreceptors send messages to the brain. It responds by sending signals that lower blood pressure. The opposite happens when the baroreceptors and brain detect low blood pressure.

illustration of carotid artery

Photo courtesy CVRx

The Rheos device is implanted under the skin near the collarbone. Thin wires stretch from it to the baroreceptors. The device sends pulses of electricity to the baroreceptors, stimulating them to send extra "high pressure" signals to the brain. The brain responds by telling the heart to slow down and blood vessels to relax, which lowers blood pressure.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »