Influence of antihypertensive medication on aldosterone and renin concentration in the differential diagnosis of essential hypertension and primary aldosteronism

C Seifarth, S Trenkel, H Schobel, E G Hahn, J Hensen
Clinical Endocrinology 2002, 57 (4): 457-65

OBJECTIVE: Antihypertensive drugs influence the neurohumoral cardiovascular system and the concentration of hormones involved in blood pressure regulation. Little is known, however, about the extent to which various antihypertensive drugs influence cardiovascular hormone concentrations and thus disturb the differential diagnosis of hypertension in clinical practice. In this study we compare the impact of different antihypertensive medicaments on the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system in patients with essential hypertension who are screened for primary aldosteronism.

DESIGN AND SUBJECTS: We analysed serum aldosterone (SAC) and plasma renin concentration (PRC) in 37 normotensive controls, 144 hypertensive patients with essential hypertension, and 19 patients with primary aldosteronism. Patients were on different treatment regimens such as single drug or combination therapy with beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin II subtype 1 (AT1) receptor antagonists, calcium channel blockers, spironolactone and no treatment.

RESULTS: In patients with essential hypertension, beta-blocker therapy (n = 47) led to a highly significant suppression of renin, whereas serum levels of aldosterone were not significantly altered. ACE inhibitors and AT1 receptor antagonists (n = 55) decreased aldosterone levels only to a minor extent. Calcium channel blockers (n = 23) had no significant influence on SAC or PRC. In patients with primary aldosteronism treated with spironolactone (n = 8), renin escaped suppression and reached very high levels.

CONCLUSION: Beta-blockers and aldosterone antagonists have the strongest impact on the renin-angiotensin system. The decrease in renin concentration by beta-blockers leads to an increase in the ratio of aldosterone to renin, and thus to false-positive results in patients with essential hypertension. Calcium channel blockers, and probably also ACE inhibitors and AT1 receptor antagonists alone or in combination, may be continued during screening for primary aldosteronism by determination of renin and aldosterone concentration.

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