New controls of blood pressure

23 November, 2010

Melbourne scientists have made a major breakthrough in treating high blood pressure.

A simple 45-minute procedure to control the condition should be available within a year.

Between 25-30 per cent of Australian adults suffer high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Medication fails to control the condition in half of the 1.5 million Australian sufferers.

The new procedure, developed by Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, involves a catheter device that is inserted through the groin into the renal arteries.

It emits radio waves to destroy nerves in the kidneys that play a crucial role in the elevation of blood pressure.

The device, called the Symplicity Catheter System, has already been approved for use by government medicines regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration and may be used routinely within a year.

Principal investigator Prof Markus Schlaich said the trial involved 106 patients in Australia and Europe, with half having the procedure, known as renal denervation.

Of those who had the procedure, 84 per cent experienced a significant - more than 10mmHg - drop in blood pressure, and while it was hoped the results were permanent, they had so far lasted two years.

Studies have shown reducing blood pressure by as little as 5mmHg can reduce the risk of stroke by 30 per cent.

"The study also found the therapy was safe, with no serious device or procedure-related complications," Prof Schlaich said.

"High blood pressure is the biggest killer worldwide, and half of those patients treated are not controlled, so this could have a tremendous impact."

Melbourne woman Gael Lander, 67, was the first person in the world to have the procedure done, at St Vincent's Hospital two years ago.

Lander, of Brighton, had suffered from difficult to control high blood pressure since her mid-30s, and it transformed her life. "Everything used to race, my pulse, my heart, but since the procedure it's like someone's taken their finger off the fast-forward button," she said. "I'm a lot calmer."

Both her parents suffered high blood pressure, and her father died of heart failure and her mother after a massive stroke, and she had felt she would go the same way.

"But it's taken a lot of worry off me. I know that I'm not going to have a stroke ... it's given me peace of mind," Ms Lander said.

Scientists expect the procedure to be adopted around the world.

The results of the trial are being presented to the American Heart Association today, and published in medical journal The Lancet.

Source: Baker IDI