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28 May 2012

Bristol Heart Institute to trial new tool to combat high blood pressure

Doctors at the Bristol Heart Institute (BHI) are the first in the South West to offer patients with high blood pressure the opportunity to control their condition with a new type of treatment.

The research study is being undertaken at the Bristol Heart Institute and hopes to add to the body of research around a treatment called renal denervation. The team comprises doctors and researchers from the The Bristol Heart Institute (Dr Angus Nightingale, Dr Andreas Baumbach), the University of Bristol (ProfessorJulian Paton), and the Richard Bright Renal Unit (Professor Steven Harper).

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a condition where the force that blood is exerting on the walls of the arteries of the body is higher than desirable. When left untreated this can significantly increase the patient's risk of stroke, heart failure and chronic kidney disease.

High blood pressure afflicts one billion people worldwide and its prevalence increases with age, obesity and sedentary lifestyles. Around 10- 20% of patients with the condition are unable to reach their target blood pressure even though they have been prescribed drug treatments. For these patients renal denervation may help.

The procedure involves severing the nerves that connect the kidneys to the brain and carry signals to control blood pressure. A wire is passed into the patient's blood vessels feeding the kidney and the tip of the wire is heated to burn the nerves running along the outside of the vessel. The tiny burns are done in a spiral pattern around the blood vessels until the connections are severed.

Dr Andreas Baumbach, consultant cardiologist at the BHI, says: "This is a fascinating new way of dealing with hypertension. Research results published in The Lancet show that patients who had the procedure saw their blood pressure drop by around 20 per cent and blood pressure seems to fall continuously even after two years. We are very keen to further develop this intervention and find out, in which patients it works best and how to predict a successful treatment."

Dr Angus Nightingale, consultant cardiologist at the BHI, said: "Recent results presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting, suggest that this treatment may be an effective way of reducing blood pressure in a group of people that we have found hard to treat in the past.

"The research we are doing brings together doctors from across Bristol including GPs and specialists. This is a great example of doctors from the Bristol Heart Institute and scientists from Bristol University are making available cutting edge technology to people in the South West."