Background: Data from randomised studies are lacking on the value of interventional procedures in the management of atheromatous renal artery stenosis. This randomised prospective trial compared the effects on blood pressure (BP) and renal function of percutaneous transluminal angioplasty vs medical therapy in hypertensive patients with both unilateral and bilateral disease.
Methods: A total of 135 eligible patients were identified, of whom 55 (44%) were randomised. Eligible patients had sustained hypertension, with a minimum diastolic BP of 95 mm Hg on at least two anti-hypertensive drugs. Renal artery stenosis was defined by renal angiography as at least 50% stenosis in the affected vessel. All patients were observed during an initial 4-week run-in period on a fixed drug regimen and subsequent changes measured from this 4-week baseline.
Results: Blood pressure fell during the run-in period in all groups. In patients with bilateral renal artery stenosis randomised to angioplasty, a statistically significant (P<0.05) fall in BP was observed at latest follow-up (range 3-54 months). The mean fall in BP at latest follow-up in the angioplasty group, corrected for the medical group response, was 26/10 mm Hg. In patients with unilateral renal artery stenosis, no statistically significant or clinically important differences in outcome were observed between the two groups. No significant differences or trends in serum creatinine were observed between or within any group during follow-up. Major outcome events (death, myocardial infarction, heart failure, stroke, dialysis) were similar in the angioplasty and medical groups during follow-up. In the 40/135 patients undergoing angioplasty, serious or potentially serious complications attributable to the procedure were observed in 11 patients, bleeding at the arterial site (8 patients) being the most frequent.
Conclusions: In hypertensive patients with atheromatous renal artery stenosis, percutaneous renal angioplasty results in a modest improvement in systolic BP compared with medical therapy alone. This benefit was confined to patients with bilateral disease. No patient was 'cured', renal function did not improve, and intervention was accompanied by a significant complication rate.