, Volume 100, Issue 12, pp 1049-1057,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 19 Jun 2011

Sympatho-renal axis in chronic disease


Essential hypertension, insulin resistance, heart failure, congestion, diuretic resistance, and functional renal disease are all characterized by excessive central sympathetic drive. The contribution of the kidney’s somatic afferent nerves, as an underlying cause of elevated central sympathetic drive, and the consequences of excessive efferent sympathetic signals to the kidney itself, as well as other organs, identify the renal sympathetic nerves as a uniquely logical therapeutic target for diseases linked by excessive central sympathetic drive. Clinical studies of renal denervation in patients with resistant hypertension using an endovascular radiofrequency ablation methodology have exposed the sympathetic link between these conditions. Renal denervation could be expected to simultaneously affect blood pressure, insulin resistance, sleep disorders, congestion in heart failure, cardiorenal syndrome and diuretic resistance. The striking epidemiologic evidence for coexistence of these disorders suggests common causal pathways. Chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system has been associated with components of the metabolic syndrome, such as blood pressure elevation, obesity, dyslipidemia, and impaired fasting glucose with hyperinsulinemia. Over 50% of patients with essential hypertension are hyperinsulinemic, regardless of whether they are untreated or in a stable program of treatment. Insulin resistance is related to sympathetic drive via a bidirectional mechanism. In this manuscript, we review the data that suggests that selective impairment of renal somatic afferent and sympathetic efferent nerves in patients with resistant hypertension both reduces markers of central sympathetic drive and favorably impacts diseases linked through central sympathetics—insulin resistance, heart failure, congestion, diuretic resistance, and cardiorenal disorders.