Differential diagnosis in primary aldosteronism

G. Opocher, S. Rocco, G. Carpenè, F. Mantero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The diagnosis of primary aldosteronism (PA) is based on the finding of the combination of elevated urinary and/or plasma aldosterone and suppressed renin activity in patients with hypertension and hypokalemia. However, PA consists of a number of subsets, and diagnostic criteria for a correct identification of surgically remediable forms are of great interest. The methods and the results concerning our series of 113 patients with PA are presented in this review. Aldosterone producing adenoma (APA) and idiopathic hyperaldosteronism (IHA) were the most frequent forms, 51 and 44%, respectively. They had similar blood pressure levels, but hypokalemia was most frequently found in APA. Urinary and upright plasma aldosterone were similar, but supine plasma aldosterone was lower in IHA. Plasma aldosterone response to upright posture and angiotensin II infusion was absent in most cases of APA and present in IHA, but occasionally renin-responsive adenoma were found. Captopril failed to decrease plasma aldosterone in most patients with APA, and in a subgroup of patients with IHA. Patients with adenoma also had higher values of the aldosterone precursor 18-hydroxy-corticosterone, and of atrial natriuretic peptide, probably as a consequence of a greater degree of volume expansion. Among morphological studies. CT scan and adrenal radiocholesterol scintiscan provided similar results (85% accuracy): adrenal veins catheterization clarified almost all the remaining cases. Among the subsets of PA, 3 familiar cases of dexamethasone-suppressible hyperaldosteronism were recognized, with characteristically high levels of aldosterone, 18-hydroxy-corticosterone, 18-hydroxy-cortisol and 18-oxocortisol, due to the genetic abnormalities of the 11-18 hydroxylase system. Isolated cases of primary adrenal hyperplasia (with all functional tests resulting compatible with APA, but no tumour at surgery) and aldosterone producing carcinoma (1 case) have also been reported in the present study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-55
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology

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