Background: The aim of this study was to determine the effect of adrenal venous sampling (AVS) on the management of patients with primary aldosteronism.
Methods: From September 1990 through October 2003, 203 patients with primary aldosteronism (mean age, 53 years; range, 17-80; 163 men) were selected prospectively for AVS on the basis of degree of aldosterone excess, age, desire for surgical treatment, and computed tomographic (CT) findings.
Results: Both adrenal veins were catheterized in 194 patients (95.6%). Notable among the 110 patients (56.7%) with unilateral aldosterone hypersecretion were 24 (41.4%) of 58 patients with normal adrenal CT findings, 24 (51.1%) of 47 with unilateral micronodule (< or =10 mm) apparent on CT (7 had unilateral aldosterone hypersecretion from the contralateral adrenal), 21 (65.6%) of 32 with unilateral macronodule (>10 mm) apparent on CT (1 had unilateral aldosterone hypersecretion from the contralateral adrenal), 16 (48.5%) of 33 with bilateral micronodules, and 2 (33%) of 6 with bilateral macronodules.
Conclusions: On the basis of CT findings alone, 42 patients (21.7%) would have been incorrectly excluded as candidates for adrenalectomy, and 48 (24.7%) might have had unnecessary or inappropriate adrenalectomy. AVS is an essential diagnostic step in most patients to distinguish between unilateral and bilateral adrenal aldosterone hypersecretion.