High blood pressure affects 68 million people in the United States, approximately 1 in 3 Americans. This somber statistic is especially troubling because high blood pressure, left untreated, can lead to heart disease and stroke. Under normal circumstances, hypertension can often be treated with an array of antihypertensive pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, though, for resistant cases of hypertension, drugs are not the answer. Instead physicians have been looking towards biomedical devices on bringing resistant high blood pressure down.
Enter renal denervation devices. While renal denervation (RDN) might sound like a medieval torture method, the procedure is actually minimally invasive and low risk. Understanding renal denervation requires recognizing the role the kidneys play in blood pressure as a member of the sympathetic nervous system. Those individuals with resistant forms of hypertension have overactive renal cells which exacerbate high blood pressure by improper levels of hormone activation. Renal denervation solves this by selectively denervating overactive renal cells with high radiofrequency pulses via a modified catheterization device. No overactive renal cells leads to less excessive hormones, leading to lower blood pressure.
Sympathectomy has long been a procedure in medical history as scientists attempted to understand the complexity of the cardiovascular system. Galen, while one of the most prominent medical minds of his time, did much discredit by incorrectly identifying the autonomic system. This error continued even after sympathectomy procedures were performed by Vesalius and remained so until 1732 with the publication of “Exposition anatomique de la structure du corps humain” by Jacob Winslow of Paris. After this correction, sympathectomy procedures were carried out, the first by Alexander of Liverpool in 1889. Around the 1950’s, an air of suspicion settled on sympathectomy procedures as morbidity and mortality rates rose with each ambitious surgery. Only as sympathectomy has come to be a minimally invasive procedure has interest been revisited. From Galen to today, sympathectomy has certainly come a long way.