Researchers discuss nerve ablation as a potential new treatment for high blood pressure in a new study in The Lancet.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a serious condition that affects millions of people and increases the risk of stroke and heart attack. Hypertension often requires long-term—and sometimes life-long— treatment to control. In some cases, drug treatments are not enough to control the condition.
Blood pressure is regulated by feedback mechanisms that tell the brain whether an individual’s blood pressure is too high or too low. The brain then responds by increasing or decreasing blood pressure. This feedback loop provides an alternate target for treatment.
A new study in The Lancet led by the Cochrane Collaboration and lead investigator Melvin Lobo tested whether ultrasound-induced nerve ablation, a method to decrease nerve signalling, could help control high blood pressure. The study included 146 patients with high blood pressure who were randomly assigned to ultrasound nerve ablation or a sham procedure equivalent to placebo. They treated the patients for four weeks after discontinuing drug treatment for high blood pressure, and then the patients avoided any blood pressure medications for at least two months.
The researchers found that two-thirds of the individuals who underwent ultrasound nerve ablation displayed a significant decrease in blood pressure comparable to the decreases achieved by certain hypertension drugs. This reduction was significantly higher than in the group receiving the sham procedure, and patients did not show any adverse side-effects from the procedure.
Future studies will need more participants and follow-up with patients for longer periods after the procedure. However, ultrasound nerve ablation shows great promise as a treatment for hypertension without the need for potentially damaging or using ineffective drugs.
Written by C.I. Villamil
Reference: Wise J. 2018. Nerve ablation reduced blood pressure in two thirds of patients, trial finds. BMJ.