When it comes to combating hard-to-control hypertension, doctors are considering a new approach: branching out to the kidneys.
“The kidneys are one of the major organs that help to regulate the blood pressure. They do that by various means. Some by sodium regulations in the body and they also have an influence on the sympathetic nervous system,” says Dr. Brian Taschner, a cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
The procedure, called kidney denervation, involves interrupting nerves that connect the brain and the kidneys, by disturbing signals in the renal arteries.
“This is through an ablation procedure. To specifically ablate or essentially damage the nerve to where that’s not working anymore,” says Dr. Taschner.
Ablation is used throughout medicine to disrupt nerve messaging. It relies on radio frequency, transmitted through thin wire, to destroy tissue. In this case- a catheter is inserted in the groin up to the heart then to the renal arteries. The risks are similar to a heart catheterization.
“Getting rid of the sympathetic nerve leading to the kidneys seems to have reduced the blood pressure to 30 to 40 millimeters,” says Dr. Taschner.
It’s already being used in Europe and is now undergoing trials in the U.S. kidney denervation has been shown to lower blood pressure by 90% or more. Making it a top topic in the trade.
“They interviewed some of the top cardiologist in the country in terms of what they felt were the ten biggest cardiology stories of the year and uniformly that was one of them,” says Dr. Taschner.
Studies haven’t looked at patients who are able to keep their blood pressure under control but may want to eliminate medications.