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Reincke, Martin; Bancos, Irina; Mulatero, Paolo; Scholl, Ute I.; Stowasser, Michael and Williams, Tracy Ann (2021): Diagnosis and treatment of primary aldosteronism. In: Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Vol. 9, No. 12: pp. 876-892

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Abstract

Primary aldosteronism is a common cause of secondary hypertension associated with excess cardiovascular morbidities. Primary aldosteronism is underdiagnosed because it does not have a specific, easily identifiable feature and clinicians can be poorly aware of the disease. The diagnostic investigation is a multistep process of screening, confirmatory testing, and subtype differentiation of unilateral from bilateral forms for therapeutic management. Adrenal venous sampling is key for reliable subtype identification, but can be bypassed in patients with specific characteristics. For unilateral disease, surgery offers the possibility of cure, with total laparoscopic unilateral adrenalectomy being the treatment of choice. Bilateral forms are treated mainly with mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists. The goals of treatment are to normalise both blood pressure and excessive aldosterone production, and the primary aims are to reduce associated comorbidities, improve quality of life, and reduce mortality. Prompt diagnosis of primary aldosteronism and the use of targeted treatment strategies mitigate aldosterone-specific target organ damage and with appropriate patient management outcomes can be excellent. Advances in molecular histopathology challenge the traditional concept of primary aldosteronism as a binary disease, caused by either a unilateral aldosterone-producing adenoma or bilateral adrenal hyperplasia. Somatic mutations drive autonomous aldosterone production in most adenomas. Many of these same mutations have been identified in nodular lesions adjacent to an aldosterone-producing adenoma and in patients with bilateral disease. In addition, gerrnline mutations cause rare familial forms of aldosteronism (familial hyperaldosteronism types 1-4). Genetic testing for inherited forms in suspected cases of familial hyperaldosteronism avoids the burdensome diagnostic investigation in positive patients. In this Review, we discuss advances and future management approaches in the diagnosis of primary aldosteronism.

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