12 November 2008
Among 436 patients with hypertension unrelated to any renal lesion, renovascular damage, pheochromocytoma, Cushing’s syndrome or hyperthyroidism, 15 patients had low plasma renin activity (PRA) and elevated plasma aldosterone concentrations in the upright position and resultant high aldosterone/PRA ratios: 8 with aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA; group 1) and 7 with idiopathic hyperaldosteronism (IHA; group 2). Thirtynine patients had suppressed PRA in the presence of normal plasma aldosterone levels and moderately elevated aldosterone/PRA ratios (group 3). Thirty of them had elevated plasma 11-deoxycorticosterone (DOC) and 18-hydroxy-ll-deoxycorticosterone (18-OH-DOC) concentrations (group 3a) and 9 of them had normal levels of those mineralocorticoids (group 3b). The rest of them (382 patients) had low aldosterone/PRA ratios (group 4). Adrenal scintigraphy with dexamethasone pretreatment revealed [131I]-cholesterol accumulation not only in patients with APA (unilateral) or IHA (bilateral), but also in patients of group 3a (bilateral). In patients in groups 3a and 3b adrenal size (especially thickness), as measured by computed tomography (CT scan), was enlarged, as in patients with IHA (group 2), and was significantly greater than in patients of group 4 (p < 0.001). Spironolactone reduced blood pressure in all tested patients of group 3a, and the removal of adrenal tumor or hyperplastic tissue normalized blood pressure in patients of groups 1, 2 and 3a. Excised adrenal glands exhibited cortical hyperplasia with or without nodular hyperplasia in patients of group 3a. Good agreement was found between the actual size of the excised tissue and the measurement obtained by CT scan. Since β-endorphin and β-lipotropin were depressed in patients of group 3a, it is suggested that an unknown pituitary substance stimulates the adrenal cortex to release too large amounts of DOC and 18-OH-DOC and inappropriate secretion of aldosterone.