A NEW way of treating high blood pressure, tested in Scotland, has been hailed as a "groundbreaking" step forward in therapies for the condition.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow have been taking part in a worldwide trial of the technique, which can dramatically cut blood pressure levels.
The one-off procedure is said to be an entirely new approach to treating the condition, with radiofrequency energy used to target nerves in the kidney.
After six months, patients treated in the study experienced a significant reduction in blood pressure compared with those treated using standard methods.
Professor Alan Jardine, from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences in Glasgow, said: "This really is an incredibly promising study and the results really are groundbreaking. It is the most exciting development in this field for many years.
"Before being involved in the trial, the treated patient was on eight different forms of medication for her high blood pressure. Now she is on none at all and has been free of medication for two months.
"Although this is still early in the process, the results could pave the way for an entirely new method of treatment."
Patients treated in the study, the results of which were published in The Lancet, experienced a greater reduction in blood pressure at six months than those on standard treatment.
The new procedure uses a catheter which is inserted into the upper thigh and then fed up to the renal artery at the kidney.
The procedure "silences" the renal nerves using radiofrequency energy. By accessing and disabling these nerves - the overactivity of which is associated with hypertension - the procedure aims to lower blood pressure.
The researchers said the treatment was minimally invasive and did not involve a permanent implant, allowing patients to recover quickly and return to their normal lives.
The international study was led by Professor Murray Esler, associate director of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute of Melbourne, Australia.
Prof Esler said: "The impressive results of this study show that this approach has the potential to become a truly revolutionary treatment."
Though it has no symptoms, high blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for premature death worldwide, affecting about one in three adults. Of those who receive treatment, approximately half are not achieving their target blood pressure levels.
The drugs often prescribed for hypertension must be taken daily for life. They can be costly and often result in side effects.
The device, known as the Symplicity Catheter System, was produced by the company Ardian, which also funded the study.Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "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 if this invasive procedure will be acceptable to patients and produce long-lasting effects that are safe and reduce future cardiovascular events."