Drug-resistant hypertension (RH) is a very high-risk condition involving many hypertensive patients, in whom primary aldosteronism (PA) is commonly overlooked. Hence, we aimed at determining if (1) adrenal vein sampling (AVS) can identify PA in RH patients, who are challenging because of receiving multiple interfering drugs; (2) AVS-guided adrenalectomy can resolve high blood pressure (BP) resistance to treatment in these patients.

Based on a pilot study we selected from 1016 consecutive patients referred to our Centre for ‘difficult-to-treat’ hypertension those with RH, for an observational prospective cohort study. We excluded those non-adherent to treatment (by therapeutic drug monitoring) and those with pseudo-RH (by 24-h BP monitoring), which left 110 patients who met the European Society of Cardiology/European Society of Hypertension (ESC/ESH) 2013 definition for RH. Of these patients, 77 were submitted to AVS, who showed unilateral PA in 27 (mean age 55 years; male/female 19/8). Therefore, these patients underwent AVS-guided laparoscopic unilateral adrenalectomy, which resolved RH in all: 20% were clinically cured in that they no longer needed any antihypertensive treatment; 96% were biochemically cured. Systolic and diastolic BP fell from 165/100 ± 26/14 mmHg at baseline, to 132/84 ± 14/9 mmHg at 6 months after surgery (P<10−4 for both) notwithstanding the fall of number and defined daily dose (DDD) of antihypertensive drugs required to achieve BP control (P<10−4 for both). A prominent regression of cardiac and renal damage was also observed.

Thus, the present study shows the feasibility of identifying PA by AVS in RH patients, and of resolving high BP resistance to treatment in these patients by AVS-guided adrenalectomy.

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