New test saves time for hypertension patients at Greenslopes
May 27, 2019
The hypertension unit at Greenslopes Private Hospital is halving the testing time for patients with high blood pressure caused by primary aldosteronism.
Primary aldosteronism is an adrenal gland condition which causes excessive amounts of a salt-retaining hormone in the body, leading to high blood pressure.
Hypertension unit operator, Professor Michael Stowasser said this condition is specifically treatable and quite often curable.
Previously, patients suspected to have the condition had to be admitted as an inpatient for five days, while they took salt medication and a tablet called fludrocortisone to suppress the hormone.
But the unit has managed to convert the test into a six-hour outpatient process.
“Nowadays we can do it by infusing salty water called normal saline - two litres over four hours - while sitting in a chair. This has really made it much easier for people to diagnose the condition,” Professor Stowasser said.
The unit has been a clinical and research unit ever since it was established in 1970 by Emeritus Professor Richard Gordon.
In the early 1990s, Professor Gordon challenged the theory that primary aldosteronism was a rare condition, by testing more patients who were referred to the unit with hypertension.
“We went from diagnosing less than 10 patients a year, to diagnosing 100 patients a year,” Professor Stowasser said.
Greenslopes Private Hospital’s hypertension unit has grown from one consultant to five, with a hypertension nurse who ensures all the diagnostic protocols run smoothly.
The aims of the unit are to help patients diagnose whether they are truly hypertensive, establish how severe their condition is and determine the underlying cause.
“The ultimate goal is to make sure we can control their blood pressure as best as possible and prevent the complications which can occur which include heart attacks, stroke and kidney disease,” Professor Stowasser said.
Each year, the unit receives more than 250 new referrals, but there are ways people can help to keep their blood pressure at a healthy range without having to rely on medication.
“Keep a healthy weight range, avoid excessive alcohol, trying to avoid salt and regular exercise are ways to lower your blood pressure,” Professor Stowasser said.
Patients who have been diagnosed with hypertension can help manage their own blood pressure at home using a blood pressure monitor.