London: A simple procedure that blasts the kidneys with radio waves can cure raised blood pressure, according to researchers.
Currently, about half of those who are being treated do not respond to the drugs, but a study has shown the new procedure can significantly slash raised blood pressure.
It is being trialled in the UK and could be available on the NHS by early next year, the Daily Express reported.
The quick and relatively painless procedure sees a catheter inserted into a vein, which then uses a short burst of radio waves to deactivate nerves in the kidneys.
It is thought this increases blood flow to the organs, reducing activity of the hormone renin, which is itself linked to raised blood pressure.
This latest research, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, shows that it is safe and effective in lowering blood pressure up to one year after starting treatment, with no lasting harm to the kidneys or heart.
Hypertension, defined as a blood pressure higher than 140 over 90 millimetres of mercury, is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
There are a number of drug treatments available. But many on medication, which can involve as many as three to five types, are still not able to get their blood pressure under control.
Now, study leader Professor Murray Esler, from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, has shown that these patients can be helped with a zap to the kidneys.
“Studies will soon determine whether this procedure can cure mild hypertension, producing permanent drug-free normalisation of blood pressure,” he said.
The minimally invasive procedure is known as catheter-based renal denervation.
It uses a probe passed through the femoral artery in the groin to fire short bursts of intense radio waves at nerves around the kidneys.
The aim is to destroy nerves that may be overactive in patients with hypertension. A total of 82 patients with drug-resistant hypertension took part in the Symplicity HTN-2 trial. All had blood pressure readings of 160 or higher and had taken three or more anti-hypertension drugs. Some had other conditions including diabetes.
The findings showed that six months after treatment, systolic blood pressure was reduced by at least 10 millimetres of mercury in 83 per cent of one group of patients.
Almost 79 per cent of the same group were able to maintain such reductions for a year.
“Participants’ kidneys were not damaged or functionally impaired. We also found no ill effects on long-term health,” Prof Esler said.