Morphologically Normal-Appearing Adrenal Glands As a Prevalent Source of Aldosterone Production in Primary Aldosteronism


Normal-appearing adrenal glands on cross-sectional imaging may still be the source of aldosterone production in primary aldosteronism (PA). We evaluated the prevalence of aldosterone production among morphologically normal-appearing adrenal glands and the impact of this phenomenon on interpretations of localization studies and treatment decisions. We performed a retrospective cohort study of PA patients with at least 1 normal adrenal gland and reanalyzed contemporary studies to assess interpretations of imaging and adrenal venous sampling (AVS) at the individual patient and adrenal levels. Among 243 patients, 43 (18%) had bilateral normal-appearing adrenals and 200 (82%) had a unilateral normal-appearing adrenal, for a total of 286 normal-appearing adrenal glands. 38% of these normal-appearing adrenal glands were a source of aldosteronism on AVS, resulting in discordance between imaging and AVS findings in 31% of patients. Most patients with lateralizing PA underwent curative unilateral treatment (80%); however, curative treatment was pursued in 92% of patients who had concordant imaging-AVS results but in only 38% who had discordant results (P < 0.05). In young patients, imaging-AVS discordance was detected in 32% of those under 45 years and 21% of those under 35 years. Among 20 contemporary studies (including 4,904 patients and 6,934 normal-appearing adrenal glands), up to 64% of normal-appearing adrenals were a source of aldosteronism resulting in 31% of patients having discordant results. Morphologically normal-appearing adrenal glands are commonly the source of aldosterone production in PA, even among young patients. The lack of awareness of this issue may result in inappropriate treatment recommendations.

Authors: Wasita W Parksook, Nicholas Yozamp, Gregory L Hundemer, Marwan Moussa, Jonathan Underhill, Tali Fudim, Barry Sacks, Anand Vaidya
Keywords: morphology, appearance, aldosterone production
DOI Number: 10.1093/ajh/hpab189      Publication Year: 2021

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