'Revolutionary' blood pressure treatment unveiled

A new technique that lowers blood pressure by zapping the kidneys with a radio beam could "revolutionise" treatment, it was claimed today.

The therapy produced a dramatic improvement in patients who had been unable to control their high blood pressure with several different drugs.

Scientists believe it could lead to a completely new approach to managing high blood pressure, or hypertension, a significant risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

The treatment involves a catheter device that delivers a burst of high-energy radio waves to deactivate renal nerves which play a role in raising blood pressure.

Trial patients who received the therapy saw their blood pressure fall by an average 32 over 12 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) over a period of six months.

The first figure is the systolic pressure which coincides with each heart beat. The second is the diastolic "resting" pressure between beats.

At the start of the international trial the patients had a blood pressure reading of 178 over 97 on average. A second "control" group given a "dummy" version of the treatment had the same blood pressure levels, which did not change significantly during the trial.

Study leader Professor Murray Esler, from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute of Melbourne, Australia, said: "The impressive results show that this approach has the potential to become a truly revolutionary treatment."

Colleague Professor Alan Jardine, from the University of Glasgow, said: "This really is an incredibly promising study and the results really are groundbreaking. It's the most exciting development in this field for many years."

A total of 106 patients took part in the Symplicity HTN-2 trial, reported today in an online edition of The Lancet medical journal.

Both treated and control patients were taking on average five different anti-hypertension medications.

The procedure involves inserting the device through a blood vessel in the upper thigh and feeding it up to the kidneys,