Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2020 December 31
Several studies over the past 3 decades document a higher prevalence of primary aldosteronism (PA) among hypertensive patients than generally presumed. PA exists as a spectrum from mild to severe aldosterone excess. Although a variety of PA subtypes exist, the two most common are aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs) and bilateral hyperaldosteronism (BHA). The distinction is important, because APA - and other subtypes with aldosterone production mostly from one adrenal - can be cured surgically, and BHA should be treated medically with mineralocorticoid-receptor antagonists (MRAs). The major shortcomings in the tailored management of patients with possible PA are the low rates of screening for case identification and the expensive and technically challenging imaging and interventional procedures required to distinguish APA from BHA, especially adrenal vein sampling (AVS). When AVS identifies an APA and allows the patient to be cured surgically, the procedure is of great value. In contrast, the patient with BHA is treated with MRA whether AVS is performed or not. Consequently, it is prudent to gauge how likely it is to benefit from imaging and AVS in each case prior to embarking on these studies. The explosion of information about PA in the last decade, including predictors of APA and of surgical benefit, are useful in limiting the evaluation for some patients with a positive PA screening test. This article will review our suggestions for approaching these patients in a pragmatic style, recognizing the limitations to even the best resources and facilities.