Kidney zap treatment

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Blood pressure news

Radio wave therapy offers hope to those resistant to medicines

A new technique which uses radiowaves to sever nerves to the kidneys has been found to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension who are not responding to conventional drug treatment.

The findings of the Symplicity HTN-2 trial were presented at the American Heart Associatoin Meeting in Chicago today and published in The Lancet.

Researchers found the kidney therapy lowered blood pressure by about 10mmHg or more - which although is not enough to return blood pressure to a 'normal' level is enough to lower some of the associated health risks of very high blood pressure.

The technique, which was first trialled two years ago, involves a catheter being inserted into the kidney artery and radiowaves being delivered to disrupt the nerves around the artery.

This latest research is the first randomised control study of this therapy. An Australian team, led by Professor Murray D Esler, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, working with 24 worldwide centres including Barts and the London NHS Trust, tested the treatment in trials involving more than 100 patients.

Patients with a baseline systolic blood pressure of 160 mm Hg or more, despite taking three or more antihypertensive drugs, were randomly selected to form two groups - those who were to undergo the therapy while continuing to take their medicines, and a 'control group' who simply took their usual medicines.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of UK charity the Blood Pressure Association, said: "This is exciting research which could play a part in tackling the massive issue of high blood pressure, which affects 16 million UK adults and is a major killer through the strokes and heart attacks it causes.

"Though this may offer hope to 10-20 per cent of those with high blood pressure who are unable to control their condition with available medicines, more research will first need to be done into how safe and effective this therapy may be in the long term.

"Of course, most people won't need to undergo such invasive treatment as, for the majority, high blood pressure can be successfully controlled through prescribed medicines and a healthier lifestyle. But that can only happen if the right support is given at diagnosis so that patients can better understand their condition and how to lower their risk."

Professor Mark Caulfield, a BPA Trustee and investigator in the trial, said: "Further data on cost-effectiveness and longer term follow-up are needed to be certain of the benefits. However, given the risk of uncontrolled severe hypertension, there may be a case for considering this approach in selected patients who are definitely resistant to the current repertoire of therapies."

The Blood Pressure Association also warns that this treatment is not a subsitute for medicine, as everyone in the trial continued to take their blood pressure lowering tablets.

This approach is still being tested and is not available as standard NHS procedure, but in the future could offer hope to many thousands of people with resistant high blood pressure.

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