Background: Renal scintigraphy with radiolabeled pentetic acid (diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid [DTPA]) or, more recently, mertiatide (mercaptoacetyltriglycine [MAG3]), with or without captopril challenge, is widely recommended as a diagnostic test for renal artery stenosis.
Objectives: To address (1) whether the diagnostic accuracy has been improved by the use of captopril and the introduction of mertiatide and (2) whether a renal scan that shows abnormalities is a useful criterion to select patients for renal arteriography.
Patients and methods: A standard diagnostic protocol, using both scintigraphy and arteriography, was followed in 505 consecutive high-risk hypertensive patients who were evaluated for renovascular hypertension at the University Hospital Dijkzigt, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, from 1978 to 1992.
Results: Renal artery stenosis (> or = 50%) was present in 263 patients. When the single-kidney fractional uptake was used as a diagnostic criterion, a specificity of 0.90 was obtained at a cutoff value of 35% for the worst kidney in scintigraphy using pentetic acid without captopril challenge (n = 225) and at a cutoff value of 37% after captopril challenge (n = 280). This was associated with sensitivity levels of 0.65 and 0.68, respectively. The difference between the uptake of pentetic acid with and without captopril challenge in the 85 patients who were studied under both circumstances was no more accurate as a predictor of renal artery stenosis. In the 93 patients who were studied with mertiatide as well as with pentetic acid, both after captopril challenge, the diagnostic accuracy was no better with mertiatide than with pentetic acid; mertiatide failed to offer any advantage not only when the single-kidney fractional uptake was used as a criterion, but also with the use of other scintigraphic parameters (eg, time to peak, time to pyelum, overall shape of renographic curve, and kidney size).
Conclusions: The diagnostic accuracy of renal scintigraphy has not been improved by the introduction of mertiatide or by the use of captopril. The usefulness of scintigraphy as a diagnostic test for the presence of renal artery stenosis remains questionable. The physician will always confront either a substantial number of arteriograms that do not show abnormalities when renal scintigraphy is omitted as a screening step or a substantial number of missed diagnoses when a renal scan that shows abnormalities is used as a prerequisite for arteriography.