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‘Amazing treatment’, damaging nerves, targets high blood pressure

August 6, 2012
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Since learning five years ago that he had high blood pressure, Jeffrey Firebaugh has tried six or seven types and combinations of medications to control it. Nothing has worked.

“I’ve pretty much taken about everything you can take for it,” said Firebaugh, 32. “It’s been a struggle.”

He hopes that taking part in tests for a new investigational procedure offered by doctors at Washington University School of Medicine will get him healthy again. The procedure involves damaging nerves in the arteries that deliver blood to the kidneys, which play an important role in controlling blood pressure.

In people with uncontrollable high blood pressure — known as resistant hypertension — nerves in the kidney’s arteries often fire at abnormally high rates. By interrupting the nerve firing, the kidneys may be less active in secreting chemicals that lead to blood pressure elevation.

“This is an amazing treatment. It could have huge impact down the road,” said Dr. Jasvindar Singh, cardiologist and associate professor who is leading the study at Washington U., one of several sites participating in the research across the country.

The one-time procedure does not harm kidney function or decrease blood pressure too much, Singh said. Tests in Europe have shown no side effects or regeneration of the nerves, he added.

If results are positive, the procedure could be lifesaving for those who don’t respond to or can’t take medications. It could even wipe out the need to take medicine, Singh said. About 25 percent of adults have hypertension, and of those 25 percent have resistant hypertension.

To damage the nerves, doctors insert a catheter through the groin and into the kidney’s arteries, where they apply heat to some of the nerves. It takes about 40 minutes, Singh said.

Study participants will be followed for three years with periodic clinic visits and continue taking their medication. To participate, patients must be taking at least three medications at the highest tolerated doses and still have high blood pressure. They will also undergo a screening test and an angiogram. For more information call 314-362-1962, or email mpalazzo@dom.wustl.edu.

Firebaugh wants to return to hiking, riding his bike and fishing. “My goal is to get it (blood pressure) down to a healthy level where I don’t have to take medications anymore, and I can manage it with diet and exercise,” he said.

Article source: http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/fitness/8786004b-88f5-566c-9899-06a7cba3629e.html

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