Treating through the ear

Researchers hope that a new electrical stimulator that’s worn on the ear for a few hours a day could help to lower high blood pressure. The device can influence control of the heart and cardiovascular system via the vagus nerve, an imbalance of which can contribute to high blood pressure.


A new electrical stimulator is being tested for widespread use with the hope it will help to lower high blood pressure  

One contributor to high blood pressure is an imbalance of the vagus nerve. There is currently only one procedure to help correct this, which involves burning off the end of the renal nerve near the kidney.

But now, scientists have developed a device that easily and painlessly clips to the ear, where scientists say it can influence control of the heart and cardiovascular system via the vagus nerve, which goes to in the ear.

While it doesn’t cure high blood pressure, researchers hope to prove that wearing the device for half an hour a day for around two weeks can lower blood pressure for a while, after which, it can be used again. Depending on the results of the trial, the device could be available to patients within a couple of years.

The researchers say: “Antihypertensive drugs are widely available, however a high number of people with high blood pressure fail to achieve a healthy blood pressure value despite receiving one or more anti-hypertensive medications.

“For uncontrolled hypertensive patients, including drug-resistant patients, the lack of an effective therapy is a major health challenge and an urgent unmet clinical need.

“One potentially highly effective strategy to improve blood pressure control in hypertension is via redressing the nervous system imbalance, which is linked with the development of hypertensionÍž the brain controls the cardiovascular system by sending commands through the nervous system.”

The trial is underway at Queen Mary University London and is currently recruiting people with high blood pressure which isn’t brought under control with antihypertensive medications. Email for more details.

Nirmala Markhandu, Hypertension Nurse Specialist at Blood Pressure UK, says: “This is an encouraging breakthrough in medical technology, and one that will hopefully see its way successfully through clinical trials. We know there are multiple causes of hypertension, and treatments that target specific causes of blood pressure are much needed.”