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Renovascular hypertension

Contents of this page:


Hypertensive kidney
Hypertensive kidney

Alternative Names    Return to top

Renal hypertension; Hypertension - renovascular

Definition    Return to top

Renovascular hypertension is high blood pressure due to narrowing of the arteries that carry blood to the kidneys. It is a form of secondary hypertension.

See also:

Causes    Return to top

When the kidney arteries become narrow, less blood flows to the kidneys. The kidneys mistakenly respond as if your blood pressure is low and give off hormones that tell the body to retain salt and water. This causes your blood pressure to rise.

Many different diseases can cause narrowing of the renal arteries. Hardening of the arteries from high cholesterol is one of the most common. Most patients have the typical risk factors for atherosclerosis, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Fibromuscular dysplasia is another cause, particularly in women under age 50.

Symptoms    Return to top

Usually, high blood pressure causes no symptoms. Occasionally you may have a mild headache. If your headache is severe, or if you have any of the symptoms below, see a doctor right away. These may be a sign of malignant hypertension.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Persons with renovascular hypertension usually have severe, difficult-to-control high blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure measurements, repeated over time, confirm hypertension.

Your doctor may hear a "whooshing" noise, or bruit, when placing a stethoscope over your belly area.

Other signs of this disease include:

There may be signs of complications, such as:

Your doctor may order blood tests to check your renin and aldosterone levels. Imaging tests may be done see if the kidney arteries have narrowed. They include:

Treatment    Return to top

Renovascular hypertension is often difficult to treat.

Medications may be used to help control blood pressure. There are a variety of high blood pressure medications available. You and your doctor will decide which type is best for you.

Everyone responds to medicine differently. Your blood pressure should be checked frequently. The amount and type of medicine you take may need to be changed from time to time.

Further treatment depends on what causes the narrowing of the kidney arteries. In some cases, surgery to reconstruct the damaged artery may be done. Persons with renal artery stenosis may have a stent placed in the artery to hold it open.

A surgical bypass of the renal arteries (revascularization) may be done to restore blood flow in patients who have severe high blood pressure, episodes of flash pulmonary edema, or rapid worsening of kidney failure.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you think you have high blood pressure.

Call your health care provider if you have renovascular hypertension and symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment. Also call if new symptoms develop.

Prevention    Return to top

Preventing atherosclerosis may prevent the development of renal artery stenosis.

Lifestyle changes may reduce your risk of high blood pressure. Lose weight if you are overweight. Excess weight makes the heart work harder. Check with your doctor before starting a rigorous exercise program.

Changes in your diet may help to control your blood pressure. Reduce the amount of salt (sodium)you use. Salt, MSG, and baking soda all contain sodium.

See also: Heart disease and diet

References    Return to top

White CJ. Catheter-based therapy for atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis. Circulation. 2006;113:1464-1473.

Balk E, Raman G, Chung M, Ip S, Tatsioni A, Alonso A, et al. Effectiveness of management strategies for renal artery stenosis: a systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2006;145:901-912.

Textor SC. Renovascular hypertension update. Curr Hypertens Rep. 2006;8:521-527.

Victor RG. Arterial Hypertension. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for high blood pressure: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmation recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Dec 4;147(11):783-6.

Wolff T, Miller T. Evidence for the reaffirmation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation on screening for high blood pressure. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Dec 4;147(11):787-91. Review.

Update Date: 4/14/2008

Updated by: Parul Patel, MD, Private Practice specializing in Nephrology and Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation, Affiliated with California Pacific Medical Center, Department of Transplantation, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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