Friday, June 11, 2021

Primary aldosteronism: an update


Here's an update on this topic recently published in Cardiology in Review.

The original Conn syndrome was described in 1956 as a case report of a young woman with hypertension and severe hypokalemia who was found to have an adrenal adenoma and was cured after adrenalectomy. Subsequently we've found that primary aldosteronism is much more common than previously thought. It's certainly not a rare cause of secondary hypertension but it is markedly under-diagnosed.

The mechanism of action of aldosterone is described in the paper thusly:

Aldosterone, which is synthesized in the adrenal zona glomerulosa, acts primarily at the renal collecting tubule where it binds to mineralocorticoid receptors leading to an increased number of open epithelial sodium channels (ENaC) in the luminal membrane4 and increased Na-K-ATPase expression.5 Reabsorbed sodium leaves the luminal cell via the Na-K-ATPase pump. Subsequent intraluminal electronegativity triggers potassium secretion through membrane potassium channels. Additionally, aldosterone has been found to act at the second part of the distal convoluted tubule, where both the thiazide-sensitive sodium chloride cotransporter and ENaC are expressed. By regulating the function of these transporters, aldosterone is thought to have effects on sodium and chloride balance and blood pressure (BP) control.6

Hypokalemia is characteristic but only a minority of patients exhibit it at presentation.

Regarding the different etiologies, again, from the paper:

The most common cause of primary hyperaldosteronism is bilateral idiopathic hyperplasia (IHA), accounting for 60% of cases. An aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA) is seen in 30%, primary (unilateral) adrenal hyperplasia in 2%, aldosterone-producing adrenocortical carcinoma in less than 1%, familial hyperaldosteronism (FH) type 1 (glucocorticoid-remediable) in less than 1%, FH type 2 (APA or IHA) in less than 6%, and FH type 3 (germline KCNJ5 mutations) in less than 1%.9 Although germline mutations of KCNJ5 are quite rare, causing FH type 3 PA, somatic mutations of KCNJ5 are relatively common, and in one study was seen in 38% of patients with APA. These mutations are believed to increase expression of CYP11B2, the aldosterone synthase gene.10Glucocorticoid-remediable aldosteronism, which is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait, usually presents in childhood with moderate to severe hypertension. The pathophysiology involves ectopically synthesized aldosterone in the zona fasciculata under adrenocorticotropin control.

Patients with primary hyperaldosteronism have a higher cardiovascular risk then do those with comparable degrees of essential hypertension. This is believed to be due to direct extrarenal damaging effects of of aldosterone such as endothelial damage and myocardial fibrosis.

The two big questions are who should be screened and how to work it up. Guidelines are fairly aggressive in their recommendations for screening. They are covered in the paper. In brief, things that should trigger a workup include severity of hypertension (levels persistently exceeding 150 / 100), resistant hypertension which could be translated to mean failure to control the hypertension on 3 drugs or essentially any patient who is on four drugs even if controlled and hypokalemia whether spontaneous or diuretic associated. Additional candidates would include those with family history, those with early onset, and those with an adrenal incidentaloma. In addition those with sleep apnea are candidates. There is a somewhat poorly understood connection between sleep apnea and hyperaldosteronism.

It has been estimated that if these criteria or fully applied around 50% of hypertensive patients in primary care would be candidates for screening. This is straight out of of the Endocrine Society guidelines. This may seem like over testing and will certainly rule out the disorder in a substantial number of patients but it is promulgated in guidelines and published recommendations due to a substantially under-diagnosed disease burden.

Diagnosis starts with simultaneous measurement of renin and aldosterone. The renin measurement can either be plasma renin activity or renin concentration. Preferably these are done in the morning, seated for 5 to 15 minutes. The patient should be potassium and sodium replete and have diuretics discontinued. Unless the aldosterone to renin ratio is very high or spontaneous hypokalemia is observed further confirmatory testing is likely to be necessary followed by testing for the etiology of hyperaldosteronism. This includes ruling out glucocorticoid responsive hyperaldosteronism. Imaging is generally required followed often by adrenal vein sampling. Once one is past the initial screening test help from an endocrinologist or hypertension specialist might be warranted.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Procalcitonin guided antibiotic treatment is beneficial in a variety of infections

From a recent report in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine :

Rationale: Although early antimicrobial discontinuation guided by procalcitonin (PCT) has shown decreased antibiotic consumption in lower respiratory tract infections, the outcomes in long-term sepsis sequelae remain unclear.

Objectives: To investigate if PCT guidance may reduce the incidence of long-term infection-associated adverse events in sepsis.

Methods: In this multicenter trial, 266 patients with sepsis (by Sepsis-3 definitions) with lower respiratory tract infections, acute pyelonephritis, or primary bloodstream infection were randomized (1:1) to receive either PCT-guided discontinuation of antimicrobials or standard of care. The discontinuation criterion was greater than or equal to 80% reduction in PCT levels or any PCT less than or equal to 0.5 μg/L at Day 5 or later. The primary outcome was the rate of infection-associated adverse events at Day 180, a composite of the incidence of any new infection by Clostridioides difficile or multidrug-resistant organisms, or any death attributed to baseline C. difficile or multidrug-resistant organism infection. Secondary outcomes included 28-day mortality, length of antibiotic therapy, and cost of hospitalization.

Measurements and Main Results: The rate of infection-associated adverse events was 7.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.8–13.1%; 9/125) versus 15.3% (95% CI, 10.1–22.4%; 20/131) (hazard ratio, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.20–0.98; P = 0.045); 28-day mortality 15.2% (95% CI, 10–22.5%; 19/125) versus 28.2% (95% CI, 21.2–36.5%; 37/131) (hazard ratio, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.29–0.89; P = 0.02); and median length of antibiotic therapy 5 (range, 5–7) versus 10 (range, 7–15) days (P less than  0.001) in the PCT and standard-of-care arms, respectively. The cost of hospitalization was also reduced in the PCT arm.

Conclusions: In sepsis, PCT guidance was effective in reducing infection-associated adverse events, 28-day mortality, and cost of hospitalization.

At a Glance Commentary

Scientific Knowledge on the Subject

The procalcitonin (PCT)-guided discontinuation of antibiotic therapy was demonstrated to reduce antibiotic exposure in patients with lower respiratory tract infections and/or sepsis in several randomized trials. However, the effect on the incidence of infections by resistant microorganisms has not been studied.

What This Study Adds to the Field

The PROGRESS (Procalcitonin-guided Antimicrobial Therapy to Reduce Long-Term Sequelae of Infections) trial was designed as a real-world pragmatic trial, enrolling patients with sepsis. The trial demonstrated that PCT-guided antimicrobial treatment in sepsis was effective in reducing infection-associated adverse events like infections by multidrug-resistant organisms and Clostridioides difficile, as well as in-hospital and 28-day mortality. Generated evidence implicates that PCT guidance in sepsis is a safe strategy with long-term benefits that may have a substantial impact on public health, particularly for countries with high baseline antimicrobial consumption.

Here is a related editorial in the same issue.

Since pneumonia patients were included in the study, do these results contradict the recommendations of the community acquired pneumonia guidelines? The idea that procalcitonin levels should not be measured in patients with community-acquired pneumonia is a popular misconception of the guidelines, often promulgated via institutional pathways. All the guideline says is that if clinical judgement leads to a diagnosis of pneumonia antimicrobial treatment should be initiated regardless of the initial procalcitonin result. The guideline does not preclude calcitonin guided therapy.