Pioneering endocrine hypertension research to be fast-tracked into hospitals

After identifying Primary Aldosteronism (PA) as a significant cause of high blood pressure in Australia, Dr Jun Yang is now leading a multi-state program to equip hospitals to treat this form of endocrine hypertension, which until recently has had a low rate of diagnosis.

As Head of the Endocrine Hypertension Group at Hudson Institute of Medical Research and a Consultant Endocrinologist, Dr Yang heads a project designed to work collaboratively with major hospitals for an expected influx of patients with PA.

The project entitled EQUIPPA aims to equip tertiary care for the optimal diagnosis of PA, and thanks to funding from the Medical Research Future Fund in the recent Federal budget, it’s about to be rolled out in four states over the next three years.

The project was awarded $2,993,294 to be distributed through centres in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

It is also a tribute to Professor Michael Stowasser from the University of Queensland, whose research over the past three decades highlighted primary aldosteronism as an important secondary cause of high blood pressure in Australia.

Prevalence of endocrine hypertension

It comes on the back of the recent study, led by PhD student Dr Renata Libianto, in which GPs tested patients newly diagnosed with hypertension for PA and found that its prevalence was much higher than previously thought.

Dr Yang says it is important to ensure the health system is set up to manage these cases appropriately.

“Before our study, Australian GPs reported less than one in every thousand of their patients had PA, but once they started testing for it, the figure jumped to an astounding one in seven or 14 per cent.”

Dr Yang
Dr Jun Yang

More cases of PA

“If we’re identifying more patients with PA, we need our hospitals and pathology labs equipped to properly diagnose it in a timely, efficient and cost-effective way.”

“We want to prevent the health system from being unable to cope with newly-identified demands,” she said.

This multi-state project is made possible by the work of NSW Health Pathology, Metro South Hospital and Health Service, Qld, PathWest, WA and South East Sydney Local Health District, NSW.

PA patient David Wyatt (whose condition was cured thanks to Dr Yang)

The team encompasses endocrinologists, hypertension specialists, nephrologists, chemical pathologists, radiologists, health economist and Implementation scientists.

As well as the institutions listed above, the EQUIPPA project relies on the work of Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash Health, Monash University, University of NSW, University of Qld and University of WA.

Facts

  • In PA the adrenal glands produce too much aldosterone, a salt retaining hormone.
  • As well as high blood pressure, PA increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney disease, despite being rarely diagnosed.
  • PA is frequently undiagnosed and a simple blood test could save more than half a million Australians from unnecessary illness, medication and expense.
  • An Australian-first study led by Hudson Institute of Medical Research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found that of the one-in-three Australian adults with high blood pressure (hypertension), at least ten percent have PA.
  • This equates to approximately 600,000 people in Australia.
  • This month is May Measurement Month, drawing attention to high blood pressure, which is the number one cause of preventable death worldwide.