Keeping primary aldosteronism in mind: Deficiencies in screening at-risk hypertensives

Surgery. 2019 Jan;165(1):221-227. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2018.05.085. Epub 2018 Nov 8.


Background: Primary aldosteronism is a common but underdiagnosed cause of hypertension. Patients with this disorder have worse morbidity compared with those with essential hypertension, but with timely diagnosis and appropriate intervention these patients are potentially cured and may have reversal of target organ damage. The goal of this study was to determine if hypertensive patients considered high risk were checked for primary aldosteronism.

Methods: We reviewed electronic health records to identify patients age 18 years or older with coexisting hypertension and hypokalemia or hypertension and sleep apnea, then determined if they had been investigated with measurement of aldosterone or renin. We built regression models to identify explanatory variables for screening in these 2 high-risk groups.

Results: Of nearly 37,000 patients with hypertension and hypokalemia, only 2.7% were ever screened for primary aldosteronism. Most opportunities for case detection were during inpatient hospitalizations, yet in this setting, patients were less likely than clinic patients be screened. Similarly, 3.0% of hypertensive patients with sleep apnea were screened since the inclusion of this group in case detection recommendations.

Conclusion: Uptake of practice guidelines by hospital physicians, fueled by support from their specialty societies, may help to identify many more patients with unrecognized primary aldosteronism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Hyperaldosteronism / diagnosis*
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Hypokalemia / etiology
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / etiology