1. Plasma renin concentration (PRC) has been measured in 212 hypertensive patients. In fourteen patients with essential hypertension and in seventeen patients with renovascular hypertension, plasma volume (PV) and extracellular fluid volume (ECFV) were measured.
2. The results obtained have been discussed in three ways:
PRC in relation to the aetiology of hypertension;
PRC in relation to the effect on blood pressure of surgery for unilateral renal diseases;
PRC, PV and ECFV in ‘essential’ and renovascular hypertension.
3. Excluding patients with ophthalmoscopic signs of malignant hypertension, PRC is significantly higher in renovascular hypertension than in normal subjects and patients suffering from ‘essential’ hypertension and hypertension associated with bilateral renal disease; but the overlapping of the single values of the patients with these diseases is marked. Thus a normal PRC has no diagnostic value, while a high PRC without sodium deficiency or retinopathy might favour a diagnosis of renovascular disease.
4. In twenty-seven out of thirty-three patients submitted to surgery for unilateral renal disease and followed up for 12 months or longer, blood pressure has been significantly reduced. This group includes twelve patients with a normal preoperative PRC and fifteen patients with a high PRC. These results clearly demonstrate that unilateral renal disease may maintain a high blood pressure without increasing PRC and that PRC has no prognostic value.
5. Concurrent estimations of PRC, PV and ECFV in patients with renovascular or essential hypertension revealed the following differences. In cases of renovascular hypertension with normal PRC, PV and ECFV were significantly increased while in those with raised PRC, PV did not differ and ECFV was barely raised with respect to values obtained in patients with essential hypertension. PV of renovascular patients with normal renin was significantly higher than that of renovascular patients with high renin. The analysis of these results with quadratic discriminant functions demonstrated that an integrated evaluation of blood pressure, PV, ECFV and PRC allows a separation between the two types of hypertension. In other words these factors, taken together, in some way seem to reflect a difference between the two diseases. These results may indicate a new type of approach to the diagnosis and prognosis of renovascular hypertension.