Radio Wave Treatment Zaps Nerves to Bring Down High Blood Pressure

(Discover Magazine (blog)) — Could a blast of radio waves keep the hypertension away? For patients whose high blood pressure doesn’t respond to regular medication, a treatment reported in The Lancet aims to do just that.

The minimally invasive procedure is similar to angioplasty for heart disease but involves deactivating nerves in the kidney which play a key role in regulating blood pressure. A catheter is inserted into the femoral vein in the thigh and threaded through to the kidney. Then a burst of radio-frequency energy is used to disable the nerves [The Independent].

Normal systolic blood pressure is considered 120; hypertension is defined as being over 140. In this trial, the team led by Murray Esler studied the effect of the radio treatment on more than 100 people who had very high levels—an average of 178—despite taking high blood pressure medication.

After six months, the systolic blood pressure had fallen by at least 10 mmHg in 84 per cent of those who received the treatment. This is expected to reduce their risk of stroke by more than 30 per cent. Esler is unsure why it was not effective for all patients. He speculates that some were not “zapped enough”. [New Scientist]


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