A device that destroys nerves leading to the kidney safely lowered blood pressure in people with treatment-resistant hypertension, potentially offering a new option for millions of people who struggle to keep their disease in check, researchers said.

The device — made by privately held Ardian Inc of Mountain View, California — lowered the top blood pressure reading by an average of 32 points after six months, compared with no change in patients who took the best available medicines.

The one-time treatment works by silencing nerves leading into and out of the kidney, which play a central role in the sympathetic nervous system, the body’s “fight or flight” response that can increase heart rate and blood pressure.

In the study, about half of 106 patients were randomly picked to have the procedure in addition to their drugs. The other half only took medication.

After six months, blood pressure among those who got the treatment fell by 32 points on the top reading and 12 points on the bottom reading, pushing some into the near-normal range. There was no change in the control group.

Costly, but so are pills

CHICAGO – Ardian Chief Executive Andrew Cleeland said the procedure costs about $13,500.

Cardiologist and past president of the American Heart Association Robert Bonow, who was not involved in the study, said, “There is some expense involved, but the expense may be less than patients taking four or five pills every day for 40 years.”

Leading factor in deaths

High blood pressure — or too much force exerted by blood as it moves against vessel walls — is the leading risk factor for premature death worldwide.

Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120 over 80 or lower. A top reading of over 140 is considered high blood pressure.

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