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A Journal on Internal Medicine

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Minerva Medica 2003 August;94(4):259-66


language: English

Recent advances in diagnosis and treatment of primary aldosteronism

Veglio F., Morello F., Rabbia F., Leotta G., Mulatero P.


Primary aldosteronism is the most common form of secondary hypertension. The use of aldosterone/plasma renin activity ratio (ARR) as a screening test has elevated its prevalence up to 10% of hypertensive patients. Idiopathic bilateral adrenal hyperplasia and aldosterone-producing adrenal adenoma are the leading causes of primary aldosteronism. Most patients with this conditions are normokalemic and clinically undistinguishable from essential hypertensives. However, they suffer from anticipated and more severe target organ damage than other hypertensives. Thus, being primary aldosteronism a common, specifically treatable and sometimes surgically cured form of hypertension, a prompt diagnosis is necessary and cannot be overlooked. The measurement of ambulatory ARR represents the screening test and should be performed in the majority of hypertensive patients. ARR higher than a set cutoff suggests the need of a confirmatory test for primary aldosteronism, such as intravenous saline load or fludrocortisone suppression test. If inability to suppress aldosterone is demonstrated, the disease is confirmed. The subtype evaluation is based on adrenal imaging (CT scan) and selective adrenal venous sampling. The latter is the gold standard for the diagnosis of a lateralized aldosterone secretion, as typically observed in aldosterone-producing adenomas. Microadenomas are frequently overlooked by adrenal image. If lateralization is confirmed, unilateral adrenalectomy is the reasonable therapeutic option, leading to a significant reduction of blood pressure, if not normotension. If bilateral aldosterone excess is demonstrated, an aldosterone receptor antagonist should be administered. This article reviews and discusses the new data about prevalence, diagnosis and treatment of primary aldosteronism.

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