Harvard Men's Health Watch

Blood pressure therapy fails test

A promising experimental surgery to combat high blood pressured failed an important test, according to findings reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. Called renal denervation (RDN), the procedure involves zapping nerve endings in arteries leading to the kidneys using radio waves. Deadening those nerves tweaks the body's system for regulating blood pressure, which brings about a drop in blood pressure.

Preliminary studies of the technique suggested that it could substantially lower blood pressure in people who were unable to control their pressure sufficiently with medication. RDN is performed by threading a wirelike device (catheter) through the femoral artery in the leg into arteries that supply the kidneys.

The new clinical trial compared the effect of RDN to that of a pretend or "sham" procedure that involved inserting a catheter without zapping the nerves. Participants in the study had systolic blood pressure (the upper number) of 160 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher despite taking three or more medications.

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