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Nerve Zap to Kidneys Might Ease Stubborn Hypertension
Date:11/17/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- A novel approach to blast away kidney nerves has a striking effect on lowering blood pressure in heart patients whose blood pressure wasn't budging despite trying multiple drugs, Australian researchers report.

Although this study only followed patients for a short time -- six months -- the authors believe the approach, which involves delivering radiofrequency energy to the so-called "sympathetic " nerves of the kidney, could have an effect on heart disease and even help lower these patients' risk of death.

The findings were presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago and published simultaneously in The Lancet. The study was funded by Ardian, the company that makes the catheter device used in the procedure.

"This is an extremely important study, and it has the potential for really revolutionizing the way we deal with treatment-resistant hypertension," said Dr. Suzanne Oparil, director of the Vascular Biology and Hypertension Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Oparil spoke at a news conference Wednesday to announce the findings, though she was not involved in the study.

Treatment-resistant blood pressure, defined as blood pressure that cannot be controlled on three drugs at full doses, one of which should be a diuretic, afflicts about 15 percent of the hypertensive population, Oparil explained.

"Many patients are uncontrolled on four or five drugs and have truly refractory hypertension," she added. "If it cannot be controlled medically, it carries a high cardiovascular risk."

This radioablation procedure had already successfully prevented hypertension in animal models, Oparil noted.

According to study author Murray Esler, the device specifically targets the kidneys' sympathetic nerves. Previous studies have indicated that these nerves are o
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