We don’t know if using renal denervation can improve risks to the heart, blood vessels and kidneys in people with resistant hypertension.
However, renal denervation might be effective in lowering blood pressure in people with resistant hypertension.
What is resistant hypertension?
Resistant hypertension is a condition in which high blood pressure levels continue even after several blood pressure-lowering (antihypertensive) medicines have been given at high doses. It is estimated that 10% to 20% of people with hypertension have resistant hypertension.
What did we want to find out?
Renal denervation is a treatment that involves destroying renal nerves through a minimally invasive catheter-based technique to treat high blood pressure. We wanted to know if renal denervation would safely reduce blood pressure and improve quality of life in people with resistant hypertension.
What did we do?
We searched for studies that compared renal denervation to other treatments or no treatment for who have resistant hypertension.
What did we find?
We found 15 studies that involved over 1400 people with resistant hypertension and lasted from 3 to 24 months.
So far, we don’t know if using renal denervation can improve risks to the heart, blood vessels and kidneys in people with resistant hypertension. On the other hand, renal denervation might be effective in lowering blood pressure in people with resistant hypertension.
What are the main limitations of the evidence?
More studies that look at factors important to patients such as quality of life are needed. Studies that last longer and have more participants are needed to find out if denervation can lower blood pressure.
How up to date is the evidence?
The review updates our previous review. The evidence is up to date to November 2020
In patients with resistant hypertension, there is low-certainty evidence that renal denervation does not improve major cardiovascular outomes and renal function. Conversely, moderate-certainty evidence exists that it may improve 24h ABPM and diastolic office-measured BP. Future trials measuring patient-centred instead of surrogate outcomes, with longer follow-up periods, larger sample size and more standardised procedural methods are necessary to clarify the utility of this procedure in this population.
Resistant hypertension is highly prevalent among the general hypertensive population and the clinical management of this condition remains problematic. Different approaches, including a more intensified antihypertensive therapy, lifestyle modifications or both, have largely failed to improve patients' outcomes and to reduce cardiovascular and renal risk. As renal sympathetic hyperactivity is a major driver of resistant hypertension, in the last decade renal sympathetic ablation (renal denervation) has been proposed as a possible therapeutic alternative to treat this condition.
We sought to evaluate the short- and long-term effects of renal denervation in individuals with resistant hypertension on clinical end points, including fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events, all-cause mortality, hospital admissions, quality of life, blood pressure control, left ventricular hypertrophy, cardiovascular and metabolic profile and kidney function, as well as the potential adverse events related to the procedure.
For this updated review, the Cochrane Hypertension Information Specialist searched the following databases for randomised controlled trials up to 3 November 2020: Cochrane Hypertension’s Specialised Register, CENTRAL (2020, Issue 11), Ovid MEDLINE, and Ovid Embase. The World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (via CENTRAL) and the US National Institutes of Health Ongoing Trials Register ClinicalTrials.gov were searched for ongoing trials. We also contacted authors of relevant papers regarding further published and unpublished work. The searches had no language restrictions.
We considered randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that compared renal denervation to standard therapy or sham procedure to treat resistant hypertension, without language restriction.
Two authors independently extracted data and assessed study risk of bias. We summarised treatment effects on available clinical outcomes and adverse events using random-effects meta-analyses. We assessed heterogeneity in estimated treatment effects using Chi² and I² statistics. We calculated summary treatment estimates as a mean difference (MD) or standardised mean difference (SMD) for continuous outcomes, and a risk ratio (RR) for dichotomous outcomes, together with their 95% confidence intervals (CI). Certainty of evidence has been assessed using the GRADE approach.
We found 15 eligible studies (1416 participants). In four studies, renal denervation was compared to sham procedure; in the remaining studies, renal denervation was tested against standard or intensified antihypertensive therapy. Most studies had unclear or high risk of bias for allocation concealment and blinding.
When compared to control, there was low-certainty evidence that renal denervation had little or no effect on the risk of myocardial infarction (4 studies, 742 participants; RR 1.31, 95% CI 0.45 to 3.84), ischaemic stroke (5 studies, 892 participants; RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.33 to 2.95), unstable angina (3 studies, 270 participants; RR 0.51, 95% CI 0.09 to 2.89) or hospitalisation (3 studies, 743 participants; RR 1.24, 95% CI 0.50 to 3.11). Based on moderate-certainty evidence, renal denervation may reduce 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) systolic BP (9 studies, 1045 participants; MD -5.29 mmHg, 95% CI -10.46 to -0.13), ABPM diastolic BP (8 studies, 1004 participants; MD -3.75 mmHg, 95% CI -7.10 to -0.39) and office diastolic BP (8 studies, 1049 participants; MD -4.61 mmHg, 95% CI -8.23 to -0.99). Conversely, this procedure had little or no effect on office systolic BP (10 studies, 1090 participants; MD -5.92 mmHg, 95% CI -12.94 to 1.10). Moderate-certainty evidence suggested that renal denervation may not reduce serum creatinine (5 studies, 721 participants, MD 0.03 mg/dL, 95% CI -0.06 to 0.13) and may not increase the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) or creatinine clearance (6 studies, 822 participants; MD -2.56 mL/min, 95% CI -7.53 to 2.42).