Context: In patients who seek surgical cure of primary aldosteronism (PA), The Endocrine Society Guidelines recommend the use of adrenal vein sampling (AVS), which is invasive, technically challenging, difficult to interpret, and commonly held to be risky.
Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the complication rate of AVS and the ways in which it is performed and interpreted at major referral centers.
Design and settings: The Adrenal Vein Sampling International Study is an observational, retrospective, multicenter study conducted at major referral centers for endocrine hypertension worldwide.
Participants: Eligible centers were identified from those that had published on PA and/or AVS in the last decade.
Main outcome measure: The protocols, interpretation, and costs of AVS were measured, as well as the rate of adrenal vein rupture and the rate of use of AVS.
Results: Twenty of 24 eligible centers from Asia, Australia, North America, and Europe participated and provided information on 2604 AVS studies over a 6-yr period. The percentage of PA patients systematically submitted to AVS was 77% (median; 19-100%, range). Thirteen of the 20 centers used sequential catheterization, and seven used bilaterally simultaneous catheterization; cosyntropin stimulation was used in 11 centers. The overall rate of adrenal vein rupture was 0.61%. It correlated directly with the number of AVS performed at a particular center (P = 0.002) and inversely with the number of AVS performed by each radiologist (P = 0.007).
Conclusions: Despite carrying a minimal risk of adrenal vein rupture and at variance with the guidelines, AVS is not used systematically at major referral centers worldwide. These findings represent an argument for defining guidelines for this clinically important but technically demanding procedure.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01234220.