Renal Treatment Lowers Blood Pressure and Costs

Nerve-zapping hypertension treatment could be cost effective

Renal denervation

Cleveland Clinic is currently enrolling patients in a trial of a new catheter-based treatment for resistant hypertension called renal denervation. This treatment involves slipping a thin device through the blood vessels to the kidneys to deliver a mild radiofrequency heat that neutralizes certain nerves that are involved in causing hypertension. Hypertension (high blood pressure), of course, is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease.

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Early studies have shown that renal denervation has tremendous potential to reduce high blood pressure in patients who aren’t responding to medication or lifestyle changes. But some people have wondered: how does this minimally invasive treatment stack up from a cost standpoint? After all, it involves a trip to the hospital, sophisticated technology and specially trained personnel.

Well, a new study published in the online version of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests renal denervation “might be cost-effective when compared with other, well-accepted medical treatments, with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio that is markedly below the commonly accepted threshold of $50,000 per quality-adjusted life-year.” In fact, the researchers found that renal denervation may actually save money in about 20 percent of patients. How can this be? “Although renal-denervation therapy represents an additional cost at time of treatment, it seems to offer great value over time,” say the researchers.

woman getting blood pressure checked

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The long and short of it is, that while renal denervation has a larger one-time cost, medical treatment can last for a patient’s whole lifetime and rack up a much larger overall expense – not to mention the high cost of surgery and hospitalization if medication fails to control hypertension and the patient winds up with heart disease or stroke. This new study shows that renal denervation provides a substantial reduction of 10-year and lifetime probability of adverse events by comparison with standard medical treatment for high blood pressure.

The Departments of Cardiology and Nephrology and Hypertension at Cleveland Clinic are currently enrolling patients in the Symplicity HTN-3 trial. “We are very excited about this study and its potential impact,” says Cleveland Clinic’s Mehdi Shishehbor, DO, who is conducting the study at Cleveland Clinic along with George Thomas, MD. “The only way to get it at this time is by enrolling in this study.”

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