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Health Beat: Burning away high blood pressure

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 22 2013 09:40:59 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 25 2013 11:37:21 AM CDT

One billion people in the world have uncontrolled high blood pressure.

One billion people in the world have uncontrolled high blood pressure.  It’s a problem that medication can’t solve for some. Now, for the first time, there’s a procedure that’s zapping away this common condition.

Renal denervation is already approved in Canada, Australia and Europe, and it could be approved in the U.S. in the next two to three years.

Carl Youngberg is an author, garden enthusiast and art collector. He also has another title -- high blood pressure patient. He’s lived with the condition since he was 9-years-old.  

"I've had it forever!" he exclaimed.

Medications have failed to control it, so Youngberg enrolled in a clinical trial to test renal denervation.

"This is the first change in 100 years in the treatment of high blood pressure," said Dr. David L. Brown, co-director of cardiovascular research at the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano.

The idea is to target overactive renal nerves that can cause blood pressure to soar.  The nerves transmit information from the kidneys to the brain.  Doctors insert a needle into an artery in the groin, near the kidneys, and burn the nerves.

"We take off some of that overdrive, and people feel better, and their blood pressure drops, on average, 30 points," said Dr. Cara East, cardiologist and endocrinologist at Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital.

So far, it seems to be most effective for people with resistant high blood pressure, like Youngberg. He's in a double-blind trial, so he doesn't know if he received the therapy, but he’s hopeful.

“I’d like to find normal, to be honest with you. That would, a new normal for me, would be wonderful," said Youngberg.

At its highest, Youngberg's blood pressure was 203/84; now it's 160/74.

Risks are extremely rare but include infections and blood clots.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary

DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. David Brown about burning away high blood pressure