Ultrasound could treat high blood pressure

People suffering from high blood pressure could one day soon reduce their medications by turning to a minimally invasive surgical procedure using ultrasound.

Scientists behind a six-month long international clinical trial that used ultrasound to target nerves leading to the kidneys, in a procedure known as ‘renal denervation,  said the procedure had proven successful in treating mild to moderate high blood pressure.

Carrying out the nearly one-hour long procedure under local anesthetic, surgeons at the Queen Mary Hospital in London, were able to decrease activity in nerves that link the brain to the kidneys and carry signals that regulate blood pressure.

The randomized, controlled trial showed that surgical procedure resulted in a more significant reduction in blood pressure, compared with participants who underwent a ‘fake’ operation. Results revealed that participants who underwent the ultrasound surgery maintained their reduced blood pressure for up to six months without medication, and after which they required fewer drugs at lower doses, than those participants who underwent the fake operation.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a growing global health issue. According to a report, between 1975 and 2015, the number of adults living with high blood pressure around the world rose from 594 million to 1.13 billion. Having high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, heart failure, and other conditions.

Some people can keep their blood pressure under control by watching their weight, doing plenty of exercise, and maintaining a healthful diet. Others may need to supplement these measures with medication. However, some people struggle to control high blood pressure even with lifestyle changes and medication.

Scientists have known that over-activity of nerves sending and receiving messages from the brain to the kidneys can raise blood pressure through its interaction with the body’s sympathetic nervous system. Renal denervation by ultrasound disrupts the nerves leading to the kidneys and thereby ameliorate high blood pressure.

Scientists behind the study hope renal denervation therapy could soon be offered as an alternative to many lifelong medications for hypertension.