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Adrenal Vein Sampling

An adrenal vein sampling procedure helps differentiate bilateral adrenal hyperplasia from an aldosterone-secreting adenoma. These two processes have different treatments, typically surgical for adenoma and medical management for hyperplasia. It can be tedious work, but with the appropriate preparation and understanding of the anatomy, an adrenal vein sampling (AVS) procedure can be accomplished safely and efficiently.

Adrenal Vein Sampling Procedure & Results

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Ep 328 Adrenal Vein Sampling with Dr. Fritz Angle
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Pre-Procedure Prep

Adrenal Vein Sampling Indications

• Identification of primary aldosteronism and localization of aldosterone-producing adenoma.
• Confirm adrenal gland as excess cortisol source in Cushing syndrome.
• Elevated cortisol lateralizing to adrenal vein in presence of adrenal mass is confirmatory of endogenous Cushing syndrome


• Adrenalectomy/ablation not possible due to multiple comorbidities
• Patients with familial hyperaldosteronism type I and type III genetic mutations
• Contrast allergy
• Ensure no mineralocorticoid receptor blockers (spironolactone) taken for 6 weeks prior to AVS

Adrenal Vein Sampling Podcasts

Listen to leading physicians discuss adrenal vein sampling on the BackTable VI Podcast. Get tips, tricks, and expert guidance from your peers and level up your practice.

Episode #328


In this episode, host Dr. Ally Baheti interviews Dr. Fritz Angle about adrenal vein sampling, including indications, workup, and his technique for accessing the right adrenal vein.

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Episode #23


The procedure that everyone gets excited about! In this week's BackTable podcast Mike Devane talks us through adrenal vein sampling technique, including equipment/imaging tips and tricks, as well as pitfalls to avoid. Whether looking to build an AVS service, or just preparing for that once in a blue moon case, you're certain to take away a few pearls!

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Adrenal Vein Sampling Procedure Steps


• Right common femoral vein
• Place 6 or 7-Fr sheath

Primary Aldosteronism

• Typically cannulate/sample right followed by left adrenal vein, plus peripheral vein
• Peripheral venous sample: Obtain from access sheath or infrarenal IVC
• Submit samples for aldosterone and cortisol assays
• Appropriate cortisol level confirms correct catheter position within adrenal vein
• Consider stimulating with cosyntropin, institution-specific protocol

Adrenal Vein Sampling Cushing Syndrome

• Typically cannulate/sample right followed by left adrenal vein, plus IVC above adrenal glands, and IVC below renal veins
• Cosyntropin stimulation is not necessary
• Submit samples for cortisol assays

When obtaining venous samples, note time obtained and label all tubes with attention to right vs. left
Collect samples in appropriate containers for laboratory analysis; conform to lab requirements for accurate sample analysis (e.g., refrigerated sample)

Right Adrenal Vein

• Right adrenal vein is short (1-15 mm) and located superior and posterior to renal vein:
• Use reverse-curve catheter (SIM 1, VAN) to selectively catheterize right adrenal vein
• Adrenal vein typically arrayed in classic Δ form
• Superficial spider-like veins can be present
• Distinguish adrenal vein vs. accessory hepatic vein
• If adrenal vein drains into accessory hepatic vein, catheter tip should be advanced through hepatic accessory vein into adrenal vein

Left Adrenal Vein

• Use Cobra 2 or Simmons 1 or 2 catheter to cannulate left adrenal vein; may require coaxial microcatheter
• Position catheter tip beyond left inferior phrenic vein confluence but before adrenal tributaries

Adrenal Vein Characteristics

• Triangle-/Δ-shaped angiographic blush
• Central vein communicating with smaller veins in stellate/spiculated pattern
• Communicating retroperitoneal collaterals
• Confirm catheter position, gently inject 1 to 3 mL contrast
• Patient may experience back pain during contrast injection into adrenal vein, particularly on right

Aspirate from Adrenal Glands

• Slow, intermittent aspiration
• Ideally obtain 5 to 8 mL samples (discuss with laboratory at your institution)
• If aspirate flows readily, catheter likely disengaged from adrenal vein
• Punching small hole into catheter tip helps prevent vein collapse as sample is aspirated
• Record time and location (right vs. left) of aspiration on each vial
• Adrenal veins are small, weak, and prone to rupture; avoid forceful contrast injections
• Usually tenuous selective catheter positions in adrenal veins; avoid excessive catheter movement when obtaining samples to prevent dislodgement

Potential Intraprocedural Issues

• Most common difficulty is failure to cannulate right adrenal vein, due to challenging anatomy
• Selective catheterization of hepatic caudate lobe venous drainage often mistaken for right adrenal vein

Adrenal Vein Sampling Articles

Read our exclusive BackTable VI Articles for quick insights on adrenal vein sampling, provided by physicians for physicians.

Adrenal Vein Sampling: Clinical Management Before & After

Adrenal vein sampling plays a crucial role in diagnosing primary hyperaldosteronism in individuals with hypertension. Interventional radiologist Dr. Fritz Angle explains how to clinically manage patients before and after an adrenal vein sampling case to maximize procedure success.

Adrenal Vein Sampling: Tips for Cannulating the Right Adrenal Vein

Interventional radiologist Dr. Fritz Angle explains how to cannulate the right adrenal vein during adrenal vein sampling, how to confirm accurate placement, and how to ensure safe contrast injections.


Adrenal Vein Sampling Complications

• Adrenal vein dissection/rupture (< 1%)
• Adrenal hemorrhage or infarction (< 1%)
• Contrast reaction or contrast nephropathy
• Access site complications

Adrenal Vein Sampling Results

• Adrenal adenoma has high aldosterone:cortisol ratio before/after ACTH; lateralizes to affected side
• Lateralization generally considered > 4:1 ratio difference between glands
• In bilateral hyperplasia, no lateralization of ratios before or after ACTH, but aldosterone:cortisol ratio is higher than in IVC


[1] Harsha A, Trerotola SO. Technical aspects of adrenal vein sampling. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2015;26(2):239. doi:10.1016/j.jvir.2014.11.006
[2] Monticone S, Viola A, Rossato D, et al. Adrenal vein sampling in primary aldosteronism: towards a standardised protocol. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2015;3(4):296‐303. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(14)70069-5
[3] Kahn SL, Angle JF. Adrenal vein sampling. Tech Vasc Interv Radiol. 2010;13(2):110‐125. doi:10.1053/j.tvir.2010.02.006
[4] Daunt N. Adrenal vein sampling: how to make it quick, easy, and successful. Radiographics. 2005;25 Suppl 1:S143‐S158. doi:10.1148/rg.25si055514
[5] BackTable, LLC (Producer). (2018, February 20). Ep 23 – Adrenal Vein Sampling [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

Disclaimer: The Materials available on are for informational and educational purposes only and are not a substitute for the professional judgment of a healthcare professional in diagnosing and treating patients. The opinions expressed by participants of the BackTable Podcast belong solely to the participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views of BackTable.



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Adrenal Vein Sampling: Clinical Management Before & After

Adrenal Vein Sampling: Clinical Management Before & After

Adrenal Vein Sampling: Tips for Cannulating the Right Adrenal Vein

Adrenal Vein Sampling: Tips for Cannulating the Right Adrenal Vein


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