Diagnosing Hypertension With Novel Test

(MedicalNewsToday) — Investigators at the University of Cambridge have developed a novel test which may help doctors diagnose thousands of individuals with the most prevalent curable cause of hypertension (high blood pressure). The research showed a high-tech PET-CT scan could identify Conn’s syndrome, which causes up to 5% of hypertension cases. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) and National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) funded the research.

In the UK approximately 12 million individuals are diagnosed with hypertension. High blood pressure significantly increases the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. For the majority of individuals with hypertension there is no single underlying cause, although in a small group of individuals there is a specific condition that causes blood pressure to rise. Conn’s syndrome – the most prevalent curable cause of hypertension – is one of these conditions.

Although diagnosing Conn’s syndrome is complex, accurate diagnosis generally results in successful treatment. Conn’s syndrome is caused by a benign tumor called adenoma (roughly the size of a 5p coin) in one of the adrenal glands which lie near to the kidneys. The tumor causes a vital blood pressure regulating hormone called aldosterone to over produce. Conn’s syndrome can be treated either by using a medication to block the effects of aldosterone or by surgically removing an affected gland.

The novel test, examined in 44 individuals at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge, scans the abdomen using ‘positron emission tomography with x-ray computer tomography’ also known as PET-CT. PET-CT is frequently used to diagnose cancer. The team developed a special radioactive tracer called 11C-metomidate, which highlights culprit adenomas in the scan. The test takes approximately 45 minutes to complete.

At present, the standard test for Conn’s syndrome depends on taking blood samples from a vein supplying the adrenal gland to measure the aldosterone level, a complicated and difficult procedure which often fails to confirm diagnosis. However, the team demonstrated that their scan detected adenomas causing high blood pressure in the majority of study participants, making the test a potentially helpful alternative to the current standard test.


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