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Clinical features, diagnosis, and treatment of hypertensive nephrosclerosis

Johannes FE Mann, MD
Karl F Hilgers, MD
Section Editors
George L Bakris, MD
Norman M Kaplan, MD
Deputy Editor
John P Forman, MD, MSc


Hypertensive nephrosclerosis is a disorder that is usually associated with chronic hypertension. In addition to the level of blood pressure, other individual factors are involved. As an example, black patients have an approximate eightfold elevation in the risk of hypertension-induced end-stage renal disease (ESRD) [1]; this increase in risk may persist even with "adequate" blood pressure control. Although low birth weight and bias in diagnosis based upon the patient's race may be involved, the recognition of an association between two independent sequence variants in the apolipoprotein 1 (APOL1) gene on chromosome 22 and renal disease in African Americans, including focal segmental glomerular sclerosis and hypertension-related ESRD, provides a much more likely pathophysiologic mechanism [2] and suggests that hypertensive nephrosclerosis in blacks and whites may be distinct diseases. In addition, the histologic features of hypertensive nephrosclerosis may be observed in patients with normal blood pressure. (See "Epidemiology, classification, and pathogenesis of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis", section on 'FSGS in African Americans'.)


Hypertensive nephrosclerosis is characterized histologically by vascular, glomerular, and tubulointerstitial involvement (picture 1) [3]. The histologic pattern of renal injury in patients with malignant hypertension (ie, malignant nephrosclerosis) is different and is discussed separately. (See "Evaluation and treatment of hypertensive emergencies in adults" and "Moderate to severe hypertensive retinopathy and hypertensive encephalopathy in adults", section on 'Clinical manifestations and diagnosis'.)

Vascular disease — The vascular disease consists of intimal thickening and luminal narrowing of the large and small renal arteries and the glomerular arterioles. Two different processes appear to contribute to the development of the vascular lesions:

A hypertrophic response to chronic hypertension that is manifested by medial hypertrophy and fibroblastic intimal thickening, leading to narrowing of the vascular lumen [4,5]. This response is initially adaptive, minimizing pressure-dependent wall stress [5].

The deposition of hyaline-like material (plasma protein constituents, such as inactive C3b, part of the third component of complement) into the damaged, more permeable arteriolar wall [5].

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 28, 2017.
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