UAB introduces new treatment for uncontrolled hypertension patients

doctor checking a patients blood pressure

Experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Cardiovascular Institute are offering a new treatment for patients with uncontrolled hypertension who have not had success lowering their blood pressure with the use of medications. The new treatment involves renal denervation — a minimally invasive procedure that targets nerves near the kidneys that can become overactive and cause high blood pressure.

“There is no current alternative to treating resistant hypertension or poorly controlled hypertension with medical therapy, except for renal denervation,” said Hussein Abu Daya, M.D., an assistant professor in the UAB Division of Cardiovascular Disease. “This new system is one of two commercially available systems used for renal denervation, and it uniquely uses radiofrequency energy to achieve that. It complements medications and lifestyle modifications to help reduce blood pressure.”

Over 42 percent of Alabamians reported having high blood pressure in 2021, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. High blood pressure is sometimes called the “silent killer” because it usually has no noticeable warning signs or symptoms until other serious problems arise. Having high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in Alabama.

After mild sedation, the doctor inserts a very thin tube into the artery leading to the kidney. The doctor then administers energy to calm the excessive activity of the nerves connected to the kidney. The tube is removed, leaving no implant behind. This procedure has been clinically proved to help reduce blood pressure in patients for whom neither medications nor lifestyle changes have been successful.

“For the first time, UAB patients now have access to a groundbreaking technology that has been FDA-approved and has the potential to transform the lives of patients suffering from resistant or poorly controlled hypertension, including those who are intolerant to antihypertensive medications,” Abu Daya said. “This technology promises safe, significant and sustained decrease in blood pressure levels that complements existing medical and lifestyle modification therapy.”

UAB Medicine is among the first in the state offering this treatment and is one of the facilities across the country selected to participate in the AFFIRM study, evaluating the long-term safety, efficacy and durability of the procedure in real-world patients with uncontrolled hypertension and comorbidities such as diabetes, isolated systolic hypertension and chronic kidney disease.

“Our team at UAB felt that it is strategically vital for us to bring this new FDA-approved technology to UAB and Alabama to make it available to our patients,” Abu Daya said. “We are looking forward to helping our patients with uncontrolled hypertension through this new treatment.”

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