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Nerve Block Treatment May Ease Stubborn High Blood Pressure
Date:3/29/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) -- A technique that interrupts nerve signals between the kidneys and brain dropped blood pressure to normal levels in 39 percent of patients with drug-resistant hypertension, according to a small new study led by French researchers.

At 24 international sites, 106 patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) randomly received either oral medication or renal denervation treatment, a procedure that uses a catheter-based probe emitting high-frequency energy near the renal artery to deactivate nearby nerves. It was the first human randomized trial of its type, with U.S. experts hailing the results as exciting and "visionary."

Six months later, the patients who received the nerve block procedure had experienced an average systolic blood pressure drop of 32 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure drop of 12 mm Hg, the study authors said.

Half of the nerve block patients showed a measurable benefit, and 39 percent reached recommended blood pressure levels, said study author Dr. Marc Sapoval, professor of clinical radiology and chair of the cardiovascular radiology department at Hopital Europeen Georges-Pompidou in Paris.

The procedure also appeared safe, with a low incidence of local complications, researchers reported.

Prior to the study, all the participants had had resistant essential hypertension, which means that a doctor could not figure out what was causing their high blood pressure (a systolic blood pressure of 160 mm Hg or more, or 150 mm Hg in people with type 2 diabetes) and that three or more drugs had failed to control the condition.

While encouraged by the results, Sapoval noted that the research was funded by manufacturers of the catheters and generators used in the study, and that the study was small, cautioning that more and larger independent trials and patient follow-up should be done. Accor
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