Purpose of review: The aim of this article is to review the pertinent physiology and pathophysiology of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), summarize the proven beneficial cardiovascular and renal effects of RAAS blockade, examine clinical situations in which RAAS blockade may induce reductions in glomerular filtration rate, and explore why increases in serum creatinine in the setting of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACEi) or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) therapy do not necessarily signify the presence of clinically relevant kidney failure.
Recent findings: RAAS inhibition appears to reduce the likelihood of atrial fibrillation. RAAS inhibition leads to improved insulin sensitivity and glycemic control, but does not appear to prevent diabetes. The beneficial effects of ACEi/ARB therapy extend to those with significant renal disease. Combination ACEi/ARB is safe, and reduces proteinuria more than either agent alone in patients with macroalbuminuric nephropathy. Acute deteriorations in renal function that result from RAAS inhibition are usually reversible.
Summary: RAAS blockade exerts potent hemodynamic, antihypertensive, and antiinflammatory effects, and slows progression of kidney disease beyond that due to lowering of blood pressure. The benefit extends to those with advanced disease. In spite of established benefit, ACEi and ARB therapy remains underutilized, in part due to concerns about acute deteriorations in renal function that result from interruption of the RAAS.