Munson Health
Renovascular Hypertension

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by Bucciarelli A


Renovascular hypertension is high blood pressure that is caused by narrowing (stenosis) of one or both of the arteries, called the renal arteries, that supply blood to the kidneys. Narrowing of the renal arteries reduces blood flow to the kidneys. This is a potentially serious condition that requires care from your doctor.
Each kidney is capable of regulating the body’s blood pressure to assure that each organ has an adequate supply of oxygenated blood. This happens by activating a cascade of hormones known as the renin-angiotensin system.
Renal artery stenosis triggers the release of these hormones, which then becomes a cause for hypertension (high blood pressure). Since hypertension is a leading cause of strokes and heart attacks , this is a serious condition that requires diagnosis and treatment.
The Kidney and Its Main Blood Vessels
Renal Artery
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


There are many diseases that can cause narrowing of the renal arteries. The two most common causes are atherosclerosis and fibromuscular dysplasia.
  • Atherosclerosis—often called “hardening of the arteries,” results when fatty plaque builds up in the arteries and blocks blood flow to the kidneys. This occurs mainly in men over 50.
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia—an inherited disorder where muscle and fibrous tissue of the renal artery wall thicken and harden into rings that block blood flow to the kidneys. This occurs mainly in young females in their 30s.


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. You likely will be referred to a doctor who is a kidney specialist (nephrologist). Your doctor may take multiple blood pressure measurements over time and conduct blood tests to help diagnose your condition.
If you have renovascular hypertension, your doctor may conduct any of the following tests to see the amount of narrowing in the kidney arteries:
  • Renal arteriography—a dye is injected into the kidney arteries and an x-ray is then taken of them
  • Doppler ultrasound —a procedure that uses sound waves to examine various parts of the body
  • Magnetic resonance angiography —a procedure that produces very detailed two- and three-dimensional images of the arteries by using radio waves in a strong magnetic field instead of using x-rays
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition renography—a noninvasive imaging procedure that tests for the presence of renovascular hypertension and renal artery stenosis
  • CT angiography—a procedure that uses high resolution CT scan images and contrast injected into a vein to give an accurate picture of the renal arteries. This procedure is rapidly replacing renal arteriography.


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:


Your doctor will first prescribe medication to help control your blood pressure. Because responses to medications vary, your doctor will monitor your blood pressure frequently and may adjust the type, combination, and/or dose of medication. Types of high blood pressure medications (antihypertensives) include the following:
  • Diuretics
  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • ACE inhibitors (except in those with both renal arteries blocked)
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers
  • Alpha-blockers
  • Vasodilators

Interventions to Correct Renovascular Hypertension

If you have severe, uncontrolled renovascular hypertension, your physician may suggest interventions to restore blood flow to the kidneys. Types of interventions include the following:


Society for Vascular Surgery



Canadian Cardiovascular Society

Venous Disease Coalition



Fenves AZ, Ram CV. Renovascular hypertension: clinical concepts. Minerva Med. 2006;97:313-324.

Renal artery stenosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 4, 2010. Accessed November 11, 2010.

Renal vascular disease. Patient UK website. Available at Updated October 30, 2008. Accessed November 11, 2010.

Renovascular conditions. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at Accessed January 13, 2008.


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