UK scientists have developed a new technique designed to help patients with hard-to-treat hypertension. It removed nerves connecting the kidney to the brain and thus far has had few side effects.
Cardiologists at the Bristol Heart Institute and scientists at the University of Bristol have been able to significantly lower blood pressure readings and reduce the risk of strokes, heart disease, and renal disease with a technique they call renal denervation, according to Medical News Today. They published their results in the journal Hypertension.
Based on earlier findings that removing nerves running from kidney to brain in an animal model lowered blood pressure and increased long-term stability, the UK team conducted a trial using just 19 patients at the Bristol Heart Institute. They inserted a fine tube into a leg and positioned it in the artery that feeds blood to the kidneys. They were able to destroy the targeted nerves, which surround the artery, by sending radio-frequency energy through the tube.
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. It's the force blood exerts against walls of the arteries and is a disorder that typically has no symptoms. MedlinePlus states that doctors classify a reading of 120/80 or lower as normal and 140/90 or higher as high blood pressure. Readings that fall between 120 and 139 on top or between 80 and 89 on the bottom represent pre-hypertension.
The UK team reports that their technique is straightforward and can be done in a day. They indicate that it results in reductions in blood pressure in patients whose elevated numbers haven't been controlled by medication.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a third of U.S. adults -- 67 million Americans -- suffer from high blood pressure. Hypertension is under control in only 47 percent of individuals who have it. Until age 65, men and women have equal probability of developing this condition. After that age, it affects more women than men.
The researchers have formed a team to apply the laboratory data they uncovered to a clinical setting. They have received a grant from Medtronic to perfect their technique and run additional human trials.
The new technique could eventually become the treatment of choice for hypertension patients who are hard to treat with medication. One problem many of them face is eventually developing resistance to the drugs prescribed. Another is unpleasant side effects from medications used for high blood pressure.
Removing nerves linking the kidney to the brain approaches the problem of high blood pressure in a new way. Instead of attempting to control established hypertension, the technique directly addresses its cause.