In a study from the Queen Mary University of London and elsewhere, scientists found a new type of CT scan to light up tiny nodules in a hormone gland and cure high blood pressure by their removal.
The nodules are discovered in 1 in 20 people with high blood pressure.
The study solves a 60-year problem of how to detect hormone-producing nodules without a difficult catheter study that is available in only a handful of hospitals and often fails.
The researchers also found that, when combined with a urine test, the scan detects a group of patients who come off all their blood pressure medicines after treatment.
In the study, the team scanned 128 people after doctors found that their hypertension (high blood pressure) was caused by the steroid hormone aldosterone.
The scan found that in two thirds of patients with elevated aldosterone secretion, the hormone originated from a benign nodule in just one of the adrenal glands, which could be safely removed.
The scan uses a short-acting dose of metomidate, a radioactive dye that sticks only to the aldosterone-producing nodule.
The scan was as accurate as the old catheter test, but quick, painless and technically successful in every patient.
Until now, the catheter test was unable to predict which patients would be completely cured of hypertension by surgical removal of the gland.
By contrast, the combination of a “hot nodule” on the scan and urine steroid test detected 18 of the 24 patients who achieved normal blood pressure off all their drugs.
The team says these aldosterone-producing nodules are very small and easily overlooked on a regular CT scan.
When they glow for a few minutes after our injection, they are revealed as the obvious cause of hypertension, which can often then be cured.
Until now, 99% are never diagnosed because of the difficulty and unavailability of tests. Hopefully, this is about to change.
If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies that drinking tea could help lower blood pressure, and early time-restricted eating could help improve blood pressure.
For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies about why people with high blood pressure more likely to have severe COVID-19, and results showing an important but ignored cause of high blood pressure.
The study was conducted by Professor Morris Brown et al and published in Nature Medicine.
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