Sympathetic nervous system: Role in hypertension and in chronic kidney disease

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Purpose of Review: A number of cardiovascular disease have been shown to be characterized by a marked increase in sympathetic drive to the heart and peripheral circulation. This is the case for essential hypertension, congestive heart failure, obesity, metabolic syndrome and chronic renal failure. This review focuses on the most recent findings documenting the role of sympathetic neural factors in the development and progression of the hypertensive state as well as of target organ damage. It also reviews the participation of sympathetic neural factors in the development of the earlier stages of renal failure. Recent Findings: A marked increase in sympathetic neural discharge, as assessed via the microneurographic technique, has been shown to occur in the predialytic stage of chronic renal failure. Recent evidence, however, indicates that also in the earlier clinical phases of kidney disease, sympathetic activation is detectable. Further data show that sympathetic neural mechanisms participate in renal and/or hypertensive disease progression, favouring the development of target organ damage. Finally, recent findings indicate that the metabolic disarray frequently complicating the high blood pressure state (metabolic syndrome, dislipidemia, insulin resistance) may have as pathophysiological background a sympathetic overdrive. Altogether these data represent the rationale for employing in hypertension (and particularly in resistant hypertension) therapeutic interventions such as carotid baroreceptor stimulation and renal denervation, capable of exerting sympathoinhibitory effects. Summary: The sympathetic nervous system represents a major pathophysiological hallmark of both hypertension and renal failure and is an important target for the therapeutic intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-51
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • carotid baroreceptor stimulation
  • hypertension
  • renal denervation
  • renal failure
  • sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology
  • Internal Medicine


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