Now, an hour's operation to cure high blood pressure!

The procedure, known as renal sympathetic-nerve ablation, takes around one hour and involves severing nerves connecting the kidneys to the brain which carry signals to control blood pressure.

In fact, during the operation, a wire is threaded along a patient's vein into the main blood vessels feeding the kidney where 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, say the scientists. Dr Paul Sobotka, chief medical officer of Ardian, an American company that developed the equipment and funded the study, was quoted by 'The Daily Telegraph' as saying, "For the first time we can think about a cure for hypertension."

For their study, the scientists recruited 52 patients who underwent the procedure. And, the subjects saw their blood pressure drop by around 20 per cent as compared to those who remained on their normal medication.

On average, the patients who received the procedure saw their systolic blood pressure, expressed as the first of two numbers, from 178 to 146 and this was sustained over six months. The target systolic pressure is 130 mm of mercury.

High blood pressure is diagnosed as consistent readings at or above 140/90 mmHg and healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg. Mel Lobo, lead UK investigator in the trial from the National Institute of Health Research Unit at Barts and The London Trust, said: "These are outstanding results, showing good safety and a sustained reduction in blood pressure of a large magnitude."

He said that initially patients who are resistant to blood pressure treatment or those unable to tolerate the drugs should be treated but it is thought that others could benefit.  Experts have welcomed the research, but with caution.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of UK charity the Blood Pressure Association, said: "This is exciting research which could play a part in tackling the massive issue of high blood pressure.

"Though this may offer hope to 10-20 per cent of those with high blood pressure who are unable to control their condition with available medicines, more research will first need to be done into how safe and effective this therapy may be in the long term.

"Of course, most people won't need to undergo such invasive treatment as, for the majority, high blood pressure can be successfully controlled through prescribed medicines and a healthier lifestyle. But that can only happen if the right support is given at diagnosis so patients can better understand their condition and how to lower their risk."

Added Prof Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at British Heart Foundation: "This trial opens up a potentially exciting new avenue for the treatment of patients with high blood pressure who do not respond well to current medicines. Further studies are needed to see long-lasting effects that are safe."

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