Aims: Circumferential ablation of renal sympathetic nerves using catheter-based ultrasound energy was studied in a preclinical in vivo model. The aim was to investigate the benefit of cooling the arterial wall and the extent of renal nerve injury based on histopathology, and to correlate the injury with kidney norepinephrine levels.
Methods and results: Computer simulations of the ultrasound transducer within the cooling balloon demonstrated a circumferentially uniform heating profile. In vivo characterisation was performed in 10 normotensive pigs. Nine were treated bilaterally with ultrasound and survived for seven days (n=8) or were sacrificed acutely (n=1). Acutely, TTC staining of the renal arteries treated with ultrasound energy in the presence of cooling demonstrated viable tissue consistent with preservation of the arterial medial layer. Histological studies demonstrated no endothelial injury and minimal to no injury to the media of the renal arterial wall at seven days. Overall, circumferential nerve damage with up to 76% of nerve bundles affected within 7.5 mm of the arterial lumen was observed. Kidney norepinephrine (NEPI) levels were significantly reduced in all animals compared to a non-treated control animal (n=1) and correlated with the degree of nerve damage. A greater reduction in NEPI and a greater percentage of affected nerves was observed in arteries treated with two or three bilateral ultrasound emissions.
Conclusions: Catheter-based ultrasound delivered within a cooling balloon is effective at targeting the majority of the renal nerves circumferentially, resulting in significantly decreased kidney NEPI levels without damaging the arterial wall in a porcine model.