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Zapping Kidney Nerves Lowers Stubborn High Blood Pressure

New Device Helps People With Drug-Resistant Hypertension
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How It Works continued...

At the start of the study, the two groups had nearly identical average blood pressures: about 178/98. Participants' average age was 58, and nearly all were white.

After six months:

  • 84% of patients treated with the device had at least a 10 point drop in systolic blood pressure vs. 35% of patients on medication alone.
  • Systolic blood pressure dropped to less than 140 in 39% of patients whose kidneys were zapped with radio waves, compared with 6% of patients on drugs alone. Systolic pressures below 140 are a goal when someone is on treatment except in patients who have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, where the systolic goal is below 130. A systolic blood pressure of 120 or below is the ideal goal for adults.
  • Twenty percent of patients treated with the device needed less medication by the end of the study vs. 8% of patients on medication alone. Eight percent and 10% of patients in the device and drug groups, respectively, needed an increase in medication.

 

Unanswered Questions

"These are much bigger effects than you would anticipate if a new drug was being tested, particularly in people who are resistant to drugs anyway," Esler tells WebMD.

There were no serious complications during the six months of the study.

Oparil says "while exciting," the study leaves many unanswered questions. Among them: how long the procedure keeps blood pressure in check, whether it will work in people who aren't white and in people with diabetes or lower blood pressures, and whether it is cost-effective, she says.

The device is already available in Europe, where it costs about $12,000 to $13,000, Esler says. A U.S. study is scheduled to start next year.

Asked if we can cure hypertension, he says, "That's a big task [and] probably still a dream. But at least we have a device moving in that direction."

Ardian Inc., which makes the device, funded the study.

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