A new medical advancement could help solve the hypertension problem of many people in the shortest possible time.
Scientists developed a new 10-minute scan that can detect the most common cause of high blood pressure in up to 10% of people.
In a new study published in Nature Medicine, the team presented their diagnostic tool called [11C]metomidate positron emission tomography-computed tomography or simply [11C]metomidate PET-CT.
The new type of medical scan can determine specific adrenal gland nodules that cause excess hormone secretion, leading to high blood pressure.
According to the scientists, they wanted to see how the scanning technique could identify and diagnose primary aldosteronism due to a unilateral aldosterone-producing adenoma — the common cause of hypertension.
The current standard for pre-surgical investigation of primary aldosteronism is invasive in nature. Hence, only less than 1% of patients get surgical treatment for the condition.
Though the surgical procedure needed to remove the problematic adrenal gland nodules is quite simple, the lack of a non-invasive diagnostic tool has been an issue for the longest time.
The new medical scan uses metomidate since this accumulates in adrenal gland nodules that produce excessive aldosterone. The metomidate used is tagged with a radioactive tracer, so when a patient is scanned through computed tomography, only the disordered nodules will light up.
“These aldosterone-producing nodules are very small and easily overlooked on a regular CT scan. When they glow for a few minutes after our injection, they are revealed as the obvious cause of hypertension, which can often then be cured,” study co-author Morris Brown said in a news release by the Queen Mary University of London.
Co-senior author from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital William Drake said the new advancement was the product of “years of hard work and collaboration” between different health facilities and centers across the United Kingdom.
The team compared the new diagnostic tool with the rarely performed standard procedure called adrenal vein sampling and found that it was as effective at diagnosing the condition as the latter.
“This revolutionary CT new scan has the ability to save lives by identifying nodules on the bladder which cause high blood pressure so they can be removed – curing the condition so people can live healthier, happier lives,” the Minister of State for Health Will Quince said of [11C]metomidate PET-CT.
Though the non-invasive test sounds promising, it is not free from issues. One of them is the short half-life (about 20 minutes) of the carbon-11 radiotracers. Most health facilities also do not have the means to synthesize the radiotracers on-site.
But the scientists are very determined to make this breakthrough technology work. They are currently doing a new trial on a different form of metomidate with a two-hour radioactive half-life, according to New Atlas.