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New Procedure May Aid Stubborn High Blood Pressure

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Testing the New Procedure continued...

At the end of six months, people who got the new procedure, which is called renal denervation, saw their blood pressure drop from an average of 178/97 to 143/85, while people who continued getting usual care actually saw their high blood pressure climb slightly.

For the second phase of the study, researchers asked members of the comparison group if they wanted to try the new procedure. Most did. 

Their results were similar to those of patients in the first treatment group. The majority of patients saw their blood pressure drop by at least 10 points. Average reductions for the group were even bigger, about 20 to 30 points for systolic blood pressure, the top number. Diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number, was also lowered significantly.

But most people didn’t see their blood pressures return to normal levels. Normal blood pressure is considered to be less than120/80.

Treatment is ‘Not a Cure’

“This is not a cure for hypertension,” Esler says. Most people with resistant hypertension will continue to need some medication, he says.

After the procedure, some people were able to lower the number or dose of the drugs they were taking, though the reductions weren’t significantly different between the treated and comparison patients.

For the most part, the procedure seemed to be safe. Two patients in the study experienced complications. In one case, the catheter went through the wall of the artery in the kidney. Surgeons controlled the bleeding with a stent. In another case, a patient was hospitalized after experiencing an episode of extreme low blood pressure. That patient received IV fluids and had their blood pressure medications adjusted.

Two other patients had episodes of extreme high blood pressure that required hospitalization after their procedures.

“We don’t want to overhype it, because this is a new procedure, but we have not seen anything really [negative] come out of this so far,” Singh says.

One question that hasn’t been answered yet is whether reducing blood pressure this way will lower the risk of health problems caused by high blood pressure, like heart attacks and strokes.

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