Operation cuts blood pressure
The treatment will be effective for patients who are resistant to hypertension drugs.
Image: Rinelle/iStockphoto

Melbourne scientists have demonstrated that renal denervation treatment for drug-resistant hypertension is safe and highly effective in reducing blood pressure following a one-year study of patients who received the treatment1.

Renal denervation, which is now available at eight hospitals in Australia via GP referral, is minimally invasive and involves the insertion of a catheter through the femoral artery located near the groin. Once inserted, a tip at the end of the catheter emits a radio frequency to ‘silence' sympathetic nerves in the arteries that deliver blood supply to the kidneys. The procedure is expected to revolutionise treatment options for people with high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a major health burden in Australia and around the world, and is the cause of many debilitating health problems and even sudden death. It is estimated that 30-40 per cent of the population suffer from high blood pressure and of that group, 15 per cent are resistant to traditional therapies.

Lead author, Professor Murray Esler, Senior Director Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, said the findings could have significant public health implications in the treatment of resistant hypertension; a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

The results are published today in the journal Circulation and are drawn from Symplicity HTN-2, an ongoing, multicenter, international study sponsored by device manufacturer Medtronic to evaluate renal denervation for the treatment of hypertension. The findings build on results released in 2010, which showed that six months of treating the arteries around the kidneys with radio waves lowered drug-resistant high blood pressure.

The study found that 83 per cent of the treatment group experienced a drop in systolic blood pressure of at least 10 mm Hg at six months, and nearly 79 per cent of the group maintained such reductions at 12 months. Based on these results, it is estimated that the risk of heart attack and stroke could be reduced by as much as 40 per cent.

Critically, the study found that participant's kidneys were not damaged or functionally impaired and there were no ill effects on long-term health from the procedure.

Esler commented; "Studies will soon determine whether this procedure can cure mild hypertension, producing drug-free normalisation of blood pressure".

In 2011, Professor Murray Esler AM and Professor Markus Schlaich were awarded the prestigious Eureka Prize for Medical Research Translation for their pioneering research into renal denervation. Their work is an important example of Australian research that has translated into a revolutionary new treatment for a global health epidemic.  

Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.