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British medical scientists have demonstrated a revolutionary new operation that can effectively 'cure' persistent high blood pressure and takes under an hour to carry out.

The surgery, described as relatively straightforward and cheap, could reduce the risk of a major heart attack or stroke in those patients on whom medication has no effect.

Although doctors say there is no substitute for diet and exercise, one in 10 of the 15 million Britons suffering from high blood pressure - also known as hypertension - either do not respond to medication or cannot tolerate drugs.

The new procedure, called renal sympathetic-nerve ablation, involves placing tiny burns in the nerve responsible for hypertension in some people, The Daily Telegraph reported.

It disrupts signals from the brain telling the kidneys to keep blood pressure raised. Initial tests suggest it can be effective within three months, scientists said.

'This is the most exciting development in hypertension since the advent of anti-hypertensive medication 50 years ago. It is hard to forecast the limitations and it could eventually be compared to medication,' said Mel Lobo, a doctor and specialist in clinical hypertension with Britain's National Health Service.

The Daily Telegraph said its reporter watched the operation being performed on a 68-year-old London chef, who is diabetic and has already suffered a stroke and a deep vein thrombosis.

The patient was awake throughout the procedure carried out at the London Chest Hospital - the first such in Britain and part of an international clinical trial. the patient was kept in the hospital overnight, once greater experience is gained with the technique, patients will be able to go home the same day.

His blood pressure has come down just two weeks after the operation and it is thought most patients will see an improvement within three months, the paper said.

Martin Rothman, the cardiologist who performed the operation said: 'This relatively trivial procedure has the potential to make a serious improvement in the quality of life for the patient. It is very efficient and can lower the blood pressure enough to reduce stroke mortality by 50 percent.' Sobotka, chief medical officer of Ardian, a company which has developed the equipment for the surgery, said: 'For the first time we can think of a cure for hypertension.'

David Collier, a doctor and senior clinical trials fellow at the Biomedical Research Unit at Queen Mary University London, told the paper the operation offers real hope of an alternative to a life on pills for patients whose blood pressure is difficult to control.

However, he warned that it was not the 'lazy person's answer' to diet and exercise.


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