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Upstate University Hospital offering revolutionary treatment for high blood pressure

Upstate University Hospital vascular surgeon Dr. Wei Li with a ultrasound renal denervation device
Ellen Abbott
Upstate University Hospital vascular surgeon Dr. Wei Li with a ultrasound renal denervation device

A new procedure to fight uncontrolled high blood pressure is now available in central New York after the FDA approved the use of ultrasound renal denervation.

Upstate University Hospital vascular surgeon Wei Li said the idea is to interrupt the nervous system, one of the routes that creates high blood pressure. A machine delivers ultrasound energy through a catheter in the groin, which blocks the communication of the nerve that raises blood pressure in times of stress.

"So we remove the nerve pathway so the blood pressure cannot be increased," Li said.

This is an outpatient procedure, best suited for three kinds of patients. Those who are taking three or more blood pressure medications and still can’t get hypertension under control, people who have side effects from high blood pressure meds, and those who have uncontrolled hypertension and have already suffered a stroke or heart attack or other coronary event.

Li was the first surgeon in the world to conduct an ultrasound renal denervation since the FDA approved it. His patient's blood pressure dropped from 193/89 to 120/70. Li said even a small drop in blood pressure can have a major impact.

“A 10-point drop of blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart failure by 20%, stroke by 27%, and cardiovascular event by 20%, and the mortality by 13%,” he said.

This is an adjunct treatment and patients will continue to take medication, but at lower doses. Li said it will have a dramatic effect on individuals with uncontrolled hypertension.

"I expect this treatment should be a revolutionary adjunct therapy for hypertension because of the population,” Li said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.