A non-invasive surround sound system sending ultrasound waves into kidneys is being used to treat high blood pressure at a British hospital.
The technique, a form of the so-called renal denervation, uses the technology to deliver a focused ultrasound beam from outside of the body to disrupt overactive nerves in the kidneys. As a result, blood flow to organs increases, reducing levels of a hormone responsible for high blood pressure.
"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,” said James Wilkinson, a consultant cardiologist at Southampton Hospital who is leading the trials.
"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 technique could help about 500,000 patients in the UK suffering from resistant hypertension that doesn’t respond to medication.
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.
The major advantage of the surround sound therapy, which in trials reduced the blood pressure of three quarters of the treated patients, is that it allows the patients to leave the hospital almost immediately after the procedure.
Alternatively, renal denervation could be achieved by a surgical procedure that involves inserting a catheter through an incision in the groin and sending it up to the kidneys to deliver high-frequency signals to the nerves.
"With its novel approach, external ultrasound offers potential benefits over existing catheter-based renal denervation techniques,” said Roland Schmieder, a specialist in hypertension based at University Hospital Erlangen in Germany and the study's principal investigator.
"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."