Heart experts trial novel sound wave technology to lower blood pressure

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Heart experts at Southampton General Hospital are set to trial a new treatment that can reduce severe cases of high blood pressure by sending ultrasound waves to the kidneys.

The technique, called renal denervation, uses novel technology known as the Surround Sound Hypertension Therapy System to provide an alternative treatment for patients who have been unable to control the condition using conventional medication.

Around 500,000 people in the UK suffer from resistant hypertension, a type of high blood pressure which remains uncontrolled despite the use of three or more drugs.

The condition causes the body to pump blood too forcefully through the arteries and heart and, if left untreated or poorly managed, can lead to heart attacks, stroke or kidney disease.

Using the Surround Sound system, clinicians can deliver a focused ultrasound beam from outside of the body to disrupt overactive nerves leading to or in the kidneys, which increases blood flow to the organs and reduces levels of a hormone linked to high blood pressure.

The procedure lasts for around an hour and sees the patient return home the same day.

Other forms of renal denervation require an incision and catheter to be passed through the groin and into the body to send high frequency signals to the nerves.

“The development of Surround Sound therapy for renal denervation represents another potential major advancement in treatment for patients with uncontrolled blood pressure as it can be delivered non-invasively from outside of the body,” explained Dr James Wilkinson, a consultant cardiologist at Southampton General Hospital.

“If successful, this technique will offer people who cannot control their blood pressure with medication an option to limit their risk of stroke or heart disease without the need for incisions, lasers or a hospital stay.”

The treatment is currently being trialled at centres across Europe, Australia and New Zealand as part of the WAVE IV clinical study, which will see 132 eligible study participants with uncontrolled hypertension randomly assigned to receive either ultrasound therapy or a placebo therapy.

In early-stage trials, three-quarters of treated patients experienced a reduction in their blood pressure following the therapy.

Dr Roland Schmieder, a specialist in hypertension based at University Hospital Erlangen in Germany and the study’s principal investigator, added: “With its novel approach, external ultrasound offers potential benefits over existing catheter-based renal denervation techniques.

“If proven successful, non-invasive renal denervation could greatly reduce costs of treatment and increase access for the millions of people worldwide whose blood pressure is not adequately controlled today.”

The trial procedures will be carried out in the NIHR Wellcome Trust Southampton Clinical Research Facility at Southampton General Hospital in September.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the study in Southampton can contact the research team on 023 8120 4989 or by email at UHS.SouthamptonCRF@nhs.net.

Posted on Tuesday 21 July 2015