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Objectives: To evaluate vascular wall structure and conduit artery stiffness in patients with primary aldosteronism.

Methods: This observational study, conducted in a University Hypertension Center, evaluated the carotid wall by 2-D ultrasonography and ultrasonic tissue characterization, and analyzed arterial stiffness by applanation tonometer. Twenty-three consecutive patients with primary aldosteronism, 24 matched patients with essential hypertension and 15 controls were studied. Intima-media thickness and corrected integrated backscatter signal of the carotid arteries were evaluated. Radial and femoral pulse wave velocity and aortic augmentation index were also investigated.

Results: Intima-media thickness in patients with essential hypertension (0.69 /- 0.03 mm) was higher (P < 0.04) than that in controls (0.59 /- 0.02 mm). This finding was more evident in primary aldosteronism patients (0.84 /- 0.03 mm), in whom intima-media thickness was greater than that in controls (P < 0.0001) or in patients with essential hypertension (P < 0.01). Similarly, corrected integrated backscatter signal in patients with essential hypertension (-23.6 /- 0.35 dB) was higher (P < 0.0001) than that in controls (-26.2 /- 0.44 dB), but it was even more elevated in patients with primary aldosteronism (-22.1 /- 0.46 dB), who showed greater corrected integrated backscatter signal than was the case in patients with essential hypertension (P < 0.009) or in controls (P < 0.0001). Femoral pulse wave velocity was higher in primary aldosteronism patients (10.8 /- 0.57 m/s) than in patients with essential hypertension (9.1 /- 0.34 m/s, P < 0.03) or in controls (7.1 /- 0.51 m/s, P < 0.0001). Femoral pulse wave velocity was lower in controls than in patients with essential hypertension (P < 0.0001). The same pattern was observed for radial pulse wave velocity. Aortic augmentation index was higher in primary aldosteronism patients (28.2 /- 2.1%) than in patients with essential hypertension (26.0 /- 1.8%) or in controls (16.8 /- 2.0%, P < 0.001). Patients with essential hypertension likewise exhibited higher aortic augmentation index than controls (P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Aldosterone excess is responsible per se for vascular morphological (wall thickening and carotid artery fibrosis) and functional (central stiffness) damage.

(C) 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.