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Lancet. 1998 Aug 8;352(9126):446-9.

Decrease of blood pressure by ventrolateral medullary decompression in essential hypertension.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine IV, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany.



About 20% of adults worldwide will develop hypertension. Studies and clinical observations suggest an association between hypertension and pulsatile compression of the ventrolateral medulla oblongata by a looping artery. We investigated whether neurosurgical microvascular decompression substantially decreases blood pressure long-term in patients with severe essential hypertension.


We included eight patients who had received three or more antihypertensive drugs without adequate control of blood pressure, intolerable side-effects, or both. All patients underwent microvascular decompression at the root-entry zone of cranial nerves IX and X after neurovascular compression of the ventrolateral medulla oblongata was seen on magnetic-resonance angiography.


3 months after surgery, blood pressure and antihypertensive regimens had decreased substantially in three patients. Four patients who were followed up for more than 1 year became normotensive, but their antihypertensive regimens remained the same as those at 3 months. One patient did not improve. No complications associated with decompression occurred. One patient experienced a transient vocal-cord paresis after the laryngeal part of the vagus nerve was manoeuvered during surgery.


We showed a direct causal relation between raised blood pressure and irritation of cranial nerves IX and X. A subgroup of patients with essential hypertension may exist who have secondary forms of hypertension related to neurovascular compression at the ventrolateral medulla and who may be successfully treated with decompression.

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