Renal Effects of Antihypertensive Drugs

William A. Schlueter, Daniel C. Batlle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Antihypertensive drugs have disparate effects on renal haemodynamics, tubular function, plasma electrolytes, and hormonal responses. Calcium entry blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are unique in that they may increase glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and renal blood flow in patients with hypertension. Both classes of drugs are distinctive in that they prevent salt retention because of their inhibitory effect on tubular sodium reabsorption. In addition to these attributes, which are desirable in terms of lowering systemic blood pressure, these 2 classes of drugs exert important intrarenal effects which may participate in limiting the progression of renal disease. ACE inhibitors have been shown to protect against the development of glomerulosclerosis in various experimental models of renal insufficiency. Importantly, there is emerging evidence from human studies supporting a distinctive beneficial effect of these agents on renal function in patients with hypertension, mild chronic renal insufficiency and diabetes mellitus. Calcium entry blockers have also been shown to exert some beneficial effect in limiting the progression of experimental kidney disease but neither an improvement in glomerular sclerosis nor a decrease in proteinuria have been clearly documented. At present ACE inhibitors appear the most attractive agents in terms of arresting the progression of renal disease. Acute deterioration in renal function may occur following the administration of ACE inhibitors, calcium entry blockers, and β-blockers. This complication should be considered in every patient on antihypertensive therapy who suffers an unexplained deterioration in renal function. In particular, the sudden deterioration in renal function following initiation of therapy with an ACE inhibitor is a clue to the possible presence of bilateral renal artery stenosis or stenosis of a solitary functioning kidney. Renal damage may also occur in patients with unilateral renal artery stenosis even though total (2-kidney) GFR may not be appreciably reduced. In this setting, a captopril renal scan with hippuran and diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA) provides physiological information regarding the renal blood flow and GFR of each kidney. In patients with unilateral renal artery stenosis the impact of ACE inhibitor therapy on GFR may be discerned by the use of the DTPA scan, which may demonstrate a reduction in GFR in the stenotic kidney that is not apparent by evaluation of total kidney GFR. This suggests that despite adequate control of systemic blood pressure and unchanged plasma creatinine progressive kidney damage in the stenotic kidney ensues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)900-925
Number of pages26
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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