January 29, 2014

Vanderbilt Hypertension Clinic receives national comprehension designation

Hypertension Clinic members include, from left, Sandy Berryhill, LPN, Lynn Christman, Cheryl Laffer, M.D., Matt Luther, M.D., Fernando Elijovich, M.D., Robert Manning, R.N., and Karen Gore, R.N. (Not pictured: Nancy Brown, M.D., Barb Dotson, R.N., and Mena Mangrum, LPN.

The American Society of Hypertension (ASH) has recognized the Vanderbilt Hypertension Clinic as an ASH Designated Comprehensive Hypertension Center. The designation highlights Vanderbilt’s expertise in evaluating, diagnosing and treating high blood pressure – particularly treatment-resistant forms of the condition.

Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, aneurysms and kidney disease. Nearly 70 million adults in the United States (1 in 3 adults) have high blood pressure, and only about half have the condition under control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cheryl Laffer, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Medicine, directs the Hypertension Service within the Division of Clinical Pharmacology. The clinic is now one of eight ASH Comprehensive Hypertension Centers in the United States, which have “demonstrated expertise in treating patients with complex hypertension and its co-morbidities,” according to the ASH.

“This designation gives national recognition to Vanderbilt’s expertise in caring for patients with high blood pressure,” Laffer said. “Our role is to assist doctors in caring for patients with resistant hypertension – that is, those not controlled despite using three antihypertensive drugs.

“In collaboration with Vanderbilt surgeons and radiologists, we can expeditiously perform the necessary diagnostic tests and treatments for underlying, potentially curable causes of hypertension,” she said.

The Hypertension Center uses ambulatory blood pressure monitors to make sure that patients do not have “white coat” hypertension – elevations of blood pressure that only occur in the doctor’s office and do not constitute real hypertension. The center also teaches patients to monitor blood pressures at home to help with treatment adjustment.

The Vanderbilt Comprehensive Hypertension Center is the only ASH designated center in the southern region, the so-called Stroke Belt, in which hypertensive patients are at a particularly high risk.

Vanderbilt’s center already serves patients coming from Kentucky, southern Illinois and Indiana, and as far as Atlanta and Birmingham.

“We have the capacity to expand our services and are currently building a website that will allow more doctors and patients to find us to refer or self-refer to the Center,” Laffer said.

Physicians in the Hypertension Center include Laffer, Nancy Brown, M.D., Matt Luther, M.D., and Fernando Elijovich, M.D., who was a member of the original ASH committee to designate Hypertension Centers of Excellence and was instrumental in helping Vanderbilt obtain this recognition, Laffer said.

The ASH designates Comprehensive Hypertension Centers, which are located in academic medical centers or large multi-specialty clinics, and Hypertension Practice Centers, which are private or group medical practices.

To contact the Vanderbilt Comprehensive Hypertension Center, please call 615-322-3353.