A new catheter-based treatment fashioned in Australia lowers blood pressure significantly. The results of a study at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute could revolutionise treatment options for high blood pressure around the world.
The treatment involved inserting a catheter through the femoral artery of 50 patients suffering from severe and resistant hypertension - a dangerous form of high blood pressure that does not respond adequately to traditional medications.
The procedure, conducted under a local anaesthetic, uses radio energy frequency delivered via catheter to "silence" sympathetic nerves in the renal artery, the artery that delivers blood supply to the kidneys. It has long been understood that the sympathetic nerve system and nerves in the renal artery are heavily involved in blood pressure regulation in the way they interact with the kidneys - but until now there has not been a safe way to access and "switch off" these nerves before the damage is done.
Patients who underwent the procedure had on average a reduction in their blood pressure levels of 30mmHg, dramatically reducing their risk of sudden death due to stroke or heart attack, and their blood pressure remains improved one year later.
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, about 15 per cent are resistant to traditional therapies. This one-off procedure, conducted on both kidneys, has the potential to substantially reduce the premature ill health and mortality attributed to high blood pressure.
Associate Professor Markus Schlaich from Baker IDI co-authored the research, which has been published in The Lancet
, with Professor Murray Esler, Professor Henry Krum from Monash University and Professor Rob Whitbourn from St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne.
Associate Professor Schlaich said the study represented the most important advance in hypertension treatment since the development of the drug therapies used today.
"Even with pharmacological interventions, the number of people reaching target blood pressure remains very low," he said.