Micro-anatomy of the renal sympathetic nervous system: A human postmortem histologic study

Academic Article


  • Hypertension remains an epidemic uncontrolled with pharmacologic therapies. A novel catheter inserted into the renal artery has been shown to lower blood pressure by ablating the renal sympathetic nerves with radiofrequency energy delivered through the arterial wall. We report a histologic study describing the anatomic substrate for this technique, specifically the renal sympathetic nervous system. Histological sections from proximal, middle, and distal renal artery segments from nine renal arteries (five human autopsies) were analyzed. Nerves were manually counted and their distance from the lumen-intima interface was measured using a micrometer. The nerves were then categorized by location into 0.5-mm-wid e "rings" that were arranged circumferentially around the renal artery lumen. Of all nerves detected, 1.0% was in the 0-0.5 mm ring, 48.3% were in the 0.5-1.0 mm ring, 25.6% were in the 1.0-1.5 mm ring, 15.5% were in the 1.5-2.0 mm ring, and 9.5% were in the 2.0-2.5 mm ring. Beyond 0.5 mm, the proportion of nerves tended to decrease as the distance from the lumen increased. Totally, 90.5% of all nerves in this study existed within 2.0 mm of the renal artery lumen. Additionally, the number of nerves tended to increase along the length of the artery from proximal to distal segments (proximal = 216; middle = 323; distal = 417). In conclusion, our analysis indicates that a great proportion of renal sympathetic nerves have close proximity to the lumen-intima interface and should thus be accessible via renal artery interventional approaches such as catheter ablation. This data provides important anatomic information for the development of ablation and other type devices for renal sympathetic denervation. Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
  • Published In

  • Clinical Anatomy  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Atherton DS; Deep NL; Mendelsohn FO
  • Start Page

  • 628
  • End Page

  • 633
  • Volume

  • 25
  • Issue

  • 5