Researchers have discovered what may be a noninvasive alternative to identifying a common curable cause of high blood pressure, according to a report published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
In people with Conn’s syndrome, small, benign growths in the adrenal glands produce too much of a hormone called aldosterone that raises blood pressure. Conn’s (aka hyperaldosteronism) is estimated to be responsible for about 5 percent of high blood pressure cases. Adrenal vein sampling, a difficult blood sampling from a vein near the adrenal glands is the usual way diagnosis is made.
“We often see growths in the adrenal glands during a routine CT scan,” said lead researcher Morris Brown. “Often, these growths are not Conn’s adenomas, but it’s difficult to be sure and they create a lot of anxiety in patients and doctors.”
Now, experts say, a simple scan can accurately spot the problem.
University of Cambridge researchers developed a special radioactive tracer called 11C-metomidate that pools only in Conn’s syndrome growths, making it easy to identify the growths in a PET/CT imaging scan. They successfully used this method to accurately diagnose or rule out the Conn’s growths in 44 patients.
Once identified, the growths can be surgically removed or medication used to block the effects of aldosterone to restore blood pressure to normal levels.