As we mentioned in an earlier post, renal denervation was set to be one of the biggest trends in medtech in 2012, and it hasn?t failed us. It's been a hot topic at numerous conferences this year, including the European Society of Cardiology Conference, the American College of Cardiology Conference, and the Society of Interventional Radiology Meeting. Positive clinical results continue to position this technology as a breakthrough in health care and potentially one of the most profitable medtech markets out there.

So why has renal denervation?which basically involves using radiofrequency energy to ablate the renal nerves?captured everyone's attention? To put it simply, this procedure has the potential to treat a massive number of people. Renal denervation addresses hypertension (a fancier way of saying high blood pressure)?it's estimated that more than 211 million people suffered from hypertension in the US, Europe, and Japan in 2011 and this number is continuing to increase. Hypertension is something that everyone desperately wants to find a way to fix because it increases the risk of pretty much everything. Stroke? Check. Heart failure? Check. Coronary artery disease, renal impairment, diabetes, sleep apnea? Check, check, check, and check.

Moreover, there is no perfect pharmaceutical solution to address high blood pressure. While the available prescription drugs out there are able to control hypertension in some people, others spend their entire lives on multiple antihypertensives and are still not able to bring their blood pressure to reasonable levels. Compliance is, of course, a huge issue here because not all patients can remember to take the multiple pills required and others choose not to because of unpleasant side effects. It was estimated that approximately one-third of drug-treated patients still had uncontrolled hypertension in 2011, and about half of these were already prescribed three or more drugs. That population alone is significant, and it becomes even more mind-boggling if the treatment is proven to be effective for patients with milder hypertension.

So where is renal denervation at now? The technology is currently available in Europe and Australia, and FDA approval may only be a couple years away. A number of clinical studies have released positive results and are continuing to examine the technology. One study even pointed to renal denervation improving quality of life, anxiety, and depression (likely because of the improvement in all the conditions mentioned above).

Adoption has not fully taken off yet though?studies are going to have to show reductions in big ticket items, such as strokes (and thus mortality) to really drive adoption rates. Furthermore, because this procedure is so new, more long-term data showing effectiveness is needed. The day these sorts of results are released will be when renal denervation will really go big, and a lot of companies are banking on exactly that happening.

We have a lot more information on renal denervation in our latest Physician Forum report.