PET - CT Can Help Detect Curable Cause of High Blood Pressure

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a new test that could help doctors diagnose thousands of people with hypertension. While for most people with hypertension there is no discernible cause, in a small number of people there is a specific condition which causes blood pressure to rise. One such condition is known as Conn's syndrome, and this is the condition which researchers have been able to target with PET - CT scanning.

Conn's syndrome is caused by a benign tumor called an adenoma in one of the adrenal glands. The tumor causes over-production of a key blood pressure-regulating hormone called aldosterone and once diagnosed can be treated surgically or with medication.

The new test, studied on patients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, requires scanning the abdomen using positron emission tomography with x-ray computer tomography technology. The scanning technique isd more commonly known as a PET-CT and is frequently used in cancer diagnosis. Researchers have developed a special radioactive tracer called 11C-metomidate, which "lights up" the adenomas in the scan. The test takes around 45 minutes.

The initial study has been published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The work was funded mainly by the British Heart Foundation and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the research funding arm of the NHS.

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