Here is a guest post straight from the author of a recent study in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Visual abstract from Annals of IM website.
As a group of clinical hypertension specialists and researchers, my co-authors and I performed this study out of concern of under-recognition of primary aldosteronism as a common cause of secondary hypertension. Treatment-resistant hypertension occurs in about 20% of adults with hypertension and primary aldosteronism is a common cause of treatment-resistant hypertension. Identification and appropriate management of primary aldosteronism can reduce the risk of development and progression of heart disease and chronic kidney disease. Although guidelines recommend testing for primary aldosteronism in all patients with treatment-resistant hypertension, prior evidence in small, local health systems suggested extremely low rates of screening with plasma renin and aldosterone levels.
In a nationally representative
cohort of over 250,000 Veterans with treatment resistant hypertension we found
that rates of guideline-based testing for primary aldosteronism from 2000 to
2017 occurred in less than 2% of patients in whom it’s recommended. We
identified several patient-, provider-, and center-level factors associated
with better screening practices (such as being seen by an endocrinologist or
nephrologist, or being cared for at a non-rural medical center). We were
surprised to observe that patient adherence, which was identified by medication
fills from the pharmacy, was not associated with screening practices. We found
that patients who were screened were 4-times more likely to be managed
with evidence-based antihypertensive therapy with mineralocorticoid antagonists (regardless of the screening results) compared with patients who were not
screened. We also found that patients who were screened had much better blood
pressure control over time, also regardless of the results of the screening.
Overall, we observed widespread and concerning missed opportunities for primary aldosteronism screening and for appropriate treatment of patients with treatment-resistant hypertension. The fact that screening practices are strongly associated with evidence-based treatment of apparent treatment-resistant hypertension and blood pressure control over time suggests that good provider behaviors beget other good behaviors, that there are major gaps in provider knowledge of the importance of screening these patients, and that there are likely barriers to implementing appropriate management for these patients.
These findings suggest a need to improve education of providers and to leverage innovative tools to increase screening and appropriate management of patients with treatment resistant hypertension.
Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology
Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania