Hypertension continues to be major public health concern. Efforts to manage this sometimes difficult to treat condition have only started to positively impact patient health
. In some instances hypertension can be refractory to intense medical therapy. It is difficult to ascribe exactly why medical therapy is ineffective. Some
have postulated that this failure to achieve adequate BP control is due to ineffective physician prescribing patterns and/or patient non-adherence to lifelong meds for an asymptomatic illness. However, a certain subset of patients clearly have hypertension that is not amenable to pharmacological intervention (or termed resistant hypertension). A group in Australia published an interesting article in Lancet
(April 2009) about a novel catheter-based technique for renal sympathetic denervation as a new therapeutic avenue for resistant hypertension.
Blood pressure homeostasis is achieved by the coordinated action of several bodily systems and the kidney plays a prominent role. The renal sympathetic efferent nerves contribute to volume and BP homeostasis as they innervate the renal tubules, vasculature, and juxtaglomerular apparatus, all of which can impact BP. Historically, surgical lumbar sympathectomy was used for reduction of “resistant hypertension” before effective antihypertensive medications were available. This approach was complicated by significant side effects, such as postural hypotension, syncope, and impotence. Selective renal denervation may offer help for patients with resistant hypertension. With the emergence of interventional techniques for selective ablation of efferent nerves, enter this intriguing study.
The study was performed in Australia and Europe as a proof-of-principle study. This was NOT a randomized clinical trial.
It showed that this novel catheter-based device produced renal denervation and had a substantial decrease in BP in a select group of 45 patients with resistant hypertension.
- Mean baseline office SBP and DBP were 177 ± 20 and 101 ± 15 mm Hg
- eGFR was 81 ± 23 mL/min/1.73 m2
- Patients were on an average of 4.7 BP meds.
The catheter-based radiofrequency sympathetic never ablation resulted in
- Renal denervation with a 47% reduction in renal noradrenaline spillover (a marker of sympathetic efferent activity)
- 43/45 had no adverse events. 1 patient had renal artery dissection treated with stent. 1 patient had pseudoaneurysm of the femoral artery.
- Office SBP and DBP after the procedure (while maintaining patients on their usual meds) were decreased by 27/17 mm Hg at 12 months
- eGFR was reported to be stable from baseline (79 ± 21 mL/min/1.73 m2) to 6 months’ follow-up (83 ± 25 mL/min/1.73 m2), with 6 of 25 patients having an increase > 20% in eGFR and only 1 patient with a decrease in eGFR.
- Data related to the mechanism of the hypotensive response, such as natriuresis or suppression of renin, angiotensin II, and plasma catecholamines, were not reported.
Catheter based ablation of the renal artery sympathetic nerves offers a novel approach to resistant hypertension. Several limitations are immediately apparent. First, as a proof-of-principle study, a control group was lacking. Secondly, identifying which patients would benefit from such an intervention is not clear. This study was performed in centers with sustantial experience in this procedure. Adverse event rates would likely be much more significant if performed in centers with less experience. I can imagine that damage to renal parenchyma could occur from a variety of mechanisms using this techique (contrast, atheroemboli, bleeding, etc). Lastly, it is not known how long this BP lowering benefit of catheter based ablation would last. I will be curious to see the results of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of catheter-induced renal sympathetic denervation.