Laboratory investigation of primary aldosteronism

Clin Biochem Rev. 2010 May;31(2):39-56.


Availability and wider application of the plasma aldosterone/renin ratio (ARR) as a screening test for primary aldosteronism (PA) has led to the recognition that PA is the most common potentially curable and specifically treatable form of hypertension, possibly accounting for as many as 5-13% of patients. Aldosterone excess also has adverse cardiovascular consequences that go above and beyond hypertension development. These findings support the concept that PA plays an important role in cardiovascular disease states and should be systematically sought and specifically treated, and have led to the development of a US Endocrine Society clinical guideline for the detection, diagnosis and management of this condition. Reliable detection requires that interfering factors (including medications known to alter the ratio) are controlled before ARR measurement (or their effects taken into account), and reliable methods such as fludrocortisone suppression testing are used to confirm PA. Because computed tomography frequently misses aldosterone-producing adenomas yet demonstrates non-functioning nodules, adrenal venous sampling is the only dependable way to differentiate unilateral (surgically correctable) from bilateral (usually treated with aldosterone antagonist medications) forms of PA. For the glucocorticoid-remediable form of PA (familial hyperaldosteronism type I), genetic testing for the causative 'hybrid' 11beta-hydroxylase/aldosterone synthase gene has greatly facilitated detection. Laboratory assessment (including suppression testing post-operatively, and renin measurement during treatment with aldosterone antagonist medications) can assist in assessing therapeutic responses and in guiding ongoing management. Development of new, highly reliable high-throughput mass spectrometric methods for measuring aldosterone and renin should further enhance detection and reliability of diagnostic workup for PA.