Accuracy of computed tomographic angiography and magnetic resonance angiography for diagnosing renal artery stenosis

Ann Intern Med. 2004 Nov 2;141(9):674-82; discussion 682. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-141-9-200411020-00007.


Background: Timely, accurate detection of renal artery stenosis is important because this disorder may be a potentially curable cause of hypertension and renal impairment.

Objective: To determine the validity of computed tomographic angiography (CTA) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) compared with digital subtraction angiography (DSA) for detection of renal artery stenosis.

Design: Prospective multicenter comparative study conducted from 1998 to 2001. Two panels of 3 observers judged CTA and MRA image data and were blinded to all other results. Digital subtraction angiography images were evaluated by consensus.

Setting: 3 large teaching hospitals and 3 university hospitals in the Netherlands.

Patients: 402 hypertensive patients with suspected renal artery stenosis were included. A group of 356 patients who underwent all 3 diagnostic tests was used for analysis.

Measurements: Reproducibility was assessed by calculating interobserver agreement. Diagnostic performance was evaluated in terms of sensitivity, specificity, and other diagnostic variables. Atherosclerotic stenoses of 50% or greater and fibromuscular dysplasia were considered clinically relevant.

Results: Twenty percent of patients who underwent all 3 tests had clinically relevant renal artery stenosis. Moderate interobserver agreement was found, with kappa values ranging from 0.59 to 0.64 for CTA and 0.40 to 0.51 for MRA. The combined sensitivity and specificity were 64% (95% CI, 55% to 73%) and 92% (CI, 90% to 95%) for CTA and 62% (CI, 54% to 71%) and 84% (CI, 81% to 87%) for MRA.

Limitations: Eighteen percent of the patients were included nonconsecutively. Digital subtraction angiography may be an imperfect reference test.

Conclusion: Computed tomographic angiography and MRA are not reproducible or sensitive enough to rule out renal artery stenosis in hypertensive patients. Therefore, DSA remains the diagnostic method of choice. *For a list of the other investigators and research coordinators who participated in RADISH, see the Appendix.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Angiography / methods*
  • Angiography, Digital Subtraction
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Renovascular / etiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Standards
  • Renal Artery Obstruction / complications
  • Renal Artery Obstruction / diagnosis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*