High Blood Pressure: Battling the Resistance

Renal denervation works in treating people with resistant hypertension

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Some patients with high blood pressure do not respond to current treatments or therapies. Researchers may have found an innovative way to fight this resistance.

Results from a recent study show that renal denervation - a treatment in which doctors insert a catheter that gives off high-frequency energy into the renal artery of patients - can help patients with blood pressure that stays high even after they are treated. Specifically, renal denervation reduced blood pressure to normal levels in 39 percent of the study's participants. In total, 50 percent of participants benefited from the treatment.

dailyRx Insight: Renal denervation can reduce high blood pressure.

According to Mar R. Sapoval, M.D., Ph.D., professor of clinical radiology at Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou in Paris, renal denervation is a "minimally invasive" and "effective treatment." The treatment works by releasing high-frequency energy to turn off the small nerves that carry signals from the brain to the kidney and back.

As these nerves are important to controlling blood pressure, Sapoval and colleagues thought that targeting them would help patients with resistant high blood pressure (high blood pressure that does not respond to other current treatments).

The researchers studied more than 100 high blood pressure patients who were assigned to renal denervation treatment or to take an oral drug. After six months of treatment, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased in patients who were treated with renal denervation.

While these findings show promise, Sapoval acknowledges that the study was small and more research is needed to better evaluate the effectiveness of this experimental treatment.

It is estimated that close to 30% of the United States population has high blood pressure (hypertension), or about 90 million people. Blood pressure is measured as the force the pumping blood exerts on the walls of the arteries in the body. When this pressure is higher than normal (120/80 mmHg), patients are at risk for heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, and aneurysms in the arteries and brain. Even moderate high blood pressure can lead to a shortened life expectancy. Most high blood pressure is asymptomatic, and is discovered during a routine checkup. As blood pressure reaches dangerously high levels, some people may experience symptoms such as headache, ringing in the ears, visual changes, and irregular heartbeat. These symptoms are a medical emergency. At particularly high risk for high blood pressure are African Americans, people who are obese, smokers, diabetics, having high salt intake, and having a family history. Alcohol abuse and cocaine use can also cause hypertension. Diagnosis is made by measuring blood pressure over several doctors visits, and is treated by lifestyle modification first, such as smoking cessation, weight loss, dietary changes, and exercise. There are hundreds of different medications to treat hypertension, such as beta-blockers (Lopressor, Inderal), diuretics (Diamox, HydroDiuril), Calcium channel blockers (Norvasc, Procardia), and ACE inhibitors (Lotensin, Vasotec, Capoten).

The study's findings were presented at the 36th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 28, 2011
Last Updated:
March 30, 2011