Medical device maker St. Jude Medical (NYSE:STJ) has announced that it is moving forward with a study to determine if renal denervation and medication can improve the health of patients with uncontrolled hypertension by reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other serious cardiovascular incidents.

According to St. Jude Medical, renal denervation therapy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency (RF) energy to disrupt the renal nerves, which lead in and out of the kidneys. "The RF energy creates lesions (tiny scars) along the renal sympathetic nerves -- a network of nerves that help control blood pressure. This intentional disruption of the nerve supply causes systolic and diastolic blood pressure to decrease."

Renal denervation has been proven to positively impact the health of hypertension patients, but St. Jude is looking to see whether the treatment can be expanded beyond that indication. This study -- dubbed the EnligHTNment trial -- is an international, multicenter study using St. Jude's EnligHTN renal denervation system.

St. Jude's Cardiovascular and Ablation Technologies Division president Frank J. Callaghan was quoted in the release as saying, "We are committed to making the right investments to lead the emerging field of interventional treatment for hypertension... Like other landmark trials we have sponsored, this first-of-its kind study provides the opportunity to evaluate patient outcomes that matter the most -- heart attack, stroke and death."

The World Health Organization estimates that 7.5 million deaths each year can be attributed to raised blood pressure, according to St. Jude, and any success in this trial could significantly help St. Jude's fortunes. The EnligHTN renal denervation system is already cleared in Europe for treating drug-resistant hypertension, and approvals for new indications would likely see company sales boom.

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