A new procedure being offered in Edmonton, that doctors are calling a ‘game changer,’ could help thousands of Albertans living with high blood pressure.

The CK Hui Heart Centre at the Royal Alexandra Hospital is the first centre in western Canada to perform renal denervation, a minimally-invasive operation designed to treat the most serious cases of chronic high blood pressure or hypertension by disrupting nerves leading in and out of the kidneys.

“This is very, very new,” said Dr. Keysun Ranjbar. “It’s an experience for us when you’re dealing with the nerves, this is something new even for us.”

The first procedure was performed in early November, on Ludwig Kusiak, a 65-year-old Edmonton man.

Kusiak had been dealing with chronic high blood pressure for more than a decade and was taking five different medications, but nothing seemed to work.

“I ended up going from one test to another test to another to see maybe it’s the kidneys, maybe it’s this, but everything was okay, it was just for some reason I had high blood pressure and it wasn’t going away,” Kusiak said.

The high blood pressure left him tired with no energy, and often kept him up at night.

“You go to bed and four or five times at night I’d wake up and could feel the blood rushing and you can hear it in your ears,” he described.

Since Kusiak underwent the surgery, he says his blood pressure levels have dropped dramatically and he’s never felt better.

“I can sleep. I get a full night’s sleep and I feel a lot more relaxed and more calm, more energy,” he said.

Renal denervation began in Australia in 2009.

Ranjbar says so far Kusiak and another Edmonton patient have undergone the operation in western Canada, with about 20 patients in total treated in Canada.

“There’s still a long way to go and it’s very promising,” he said.

“We can see there is great potential.”

The treatment is for those who can’t manage high blood pressure through medication, which puts them at high risk for stroke, heart failure, kidney failure or blindness.

There are about 500,000 adults in the province living with high blood pressure and doctors say about five per cent of that group experience what Kusiak did.

Doctors say the procedure is very safe and could also one day also be used to treat patients with heart failure and diabetes.

More local patients are now on a waiting list to receive the procedure in the coming months.

Kusiak says he’s glad he decided to go through with the surgery, which has now changed his outlook on life.

“My attitude was, okay, give me five more years and then after that it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“Now I’m hoping maybe I can live to 125-years-old, you never know.”

With files from Carmen Leibel