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Renal Denervation - The Next Big Thing in Medical Devices

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First, some numbers. $2.8 billion: That's how big analysts say the hypertension-treating-device market will be around the world by 2020. Five: That's how many companies have devices approved in Europe with plans for future FDA filings.

Amid slumping cardiac device sales and industry-wide belt-tightening over the impending device tax, the potential payday for hypertension technologies stands out, to say the least. Leading the way, unsurprisingly, is Medtronic ($MDT), the world's largest devicemaker, followed by crosstown rival St. Jude Medical ($STJ), Covidien ($COV), and the privately held Vessix Vascular and ReCor Medical. Late to the game is Boston Scientific ($BSX), which has announced plans to get a CE mark for a similar device next year.

The next-gen hypertension-treating devices use a method called renal denervation, deadening nerves in the kidneys and thereby sending signals to the brain to loosen up pressure in blood vessels and bring down blood pressure. Each CE-marked tech does this a bit differently, however, and each company has been tripping over itself to release data asserting its device belongs at the top of the pile for one reason or another.

At the moment, the 5 devices approved in Europe are indicated only for drug-resistant hypertension, but, as doctors at the annual European Society of Cardiology meeting said last month, the constant flow of positive data suggests renal denervation technology will soon be OK'd for all forms of high blood pressure, giving doctors a choice beyond drug therapies.

Until then, the devicemakers are churning out safety and efficacy data left and right, angling for market superiority overseas. Here's what you need to know about the medical device world's next big thing. -- Damian Garde (Twitter | email)

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