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J Hum Hypertens. 2002 Jun;16(6):399-404.

Microalbuminuria is an integrated marker of subclinical organ damage in primary hypertension.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Nephrology, University of Genoa, Italy.


Increased urine albumin excretion is associated with an unfavourable cardiovascular risk profile and prognosis in primary hypertension, even though its pathogenesis is currently unknown. Microalbuminuria (Mi) has been proposed as an integrated marker to identify patients with subclinical organ damage, but its routine use is still too often neglected in clinical practice. The aim of our study was to evaluate the relationship between urinary albumin excretion and early signs of subclinical target organ damage (TOD), namely left ventricular hypertrophy and carotid atherosclerosis in a large group of non diabetic hypertensive patients. A group of 346 never treated patients with primary hypertension (212 men, 134 women, mean age 47 +/- 9 years) referred to our clinic were included in the study. They underwent the following procedures: (1) family and personal medical history and physical examination; (2) clinical blood pressure measurement; (3) routine blood chemistry and urine analysis including determination of urinary albumin excretion (ACR); (4) electrocardiogram; (5) ultrasound evaluation of left ventricular mass (LVMI) and carotid artery thickness (IMT). The overall prevalence of Mi, left ventricular hypertrophy, and carotid plaque was 13, 51, and 24% respectively. Mi was significantly correlated with LVMI (P < 0.0001), IMT (P < 0.0001) and several metabolic and non-metabolic risk factors (blood pressure, body mass index, serum lipids). Cluster analysis identified three subgroups of patients who differ significantly with regards to TOD and albuminuria (P < or = 0.001 for each of the examined variables). Patients with higher IMT and LVMI values also showed increased ACR levels. Furthermore, patients with microalbuminuria were more likely to have both LVH and IMT values above the median for the study population (OR 21, C.I. 4.6-99.97, P < 0.0001). Mi is an integrated marker of subclinical organ damage in patients with primary hypertension. Evaluation of urinary albumin excretion is a specific, cost-effective way to identify patients at higher risk for whom additional preventive and therapeutic measures are advisable.

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