angiotensin-converting enzyme test


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Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Test

 

Definition

This test measures blood levels of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), also known as Serum Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (SASE). The primary function of ACE is to help regulate arterial pressure by converting angiotensin I to angiotensin II.

Purpose

The ACE test is used primarily to detect and monitor the clinical course of sarcoidosis (a disease that affects many organs, especially the lungs), to differentiate between sarcoidosis and similar diseases, and to delineate between active and inactive sarcoid disease. Elevated ACE levels are also found in a number of other conditions, including Gaucher's disease (a rare familial disorder of fat metabolism) and leprosy.

Precautions

It should be noted that people under 20 years of age normally have very high ACE levels. Decreased levels may be seen in the condition of excess fat in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Drugs that may cause decreased ACE levels include ACE inhibitor antihypertensives and steroids.

Description

ACE plays an important role in the renin/aldosterone mechanism which controls blood pressure by converting angiotensin I to angiotensin II, two proteins involved in regulating blood pressure. Angiotensin I by itself is inactive, but when converted by ACE to the active form, angiotensin II, it causes narrowing of the small blood vessels in tissues, resulting in an increase in blood pressure. Angiotensin II also stimulates the hormone aldosterone, which causes an increase in blood pressure. Certain kidney disorders increase the production of angiotensin II, another cause of hypertension. Despite the action of ACE on blood pressure regulation, determination of this enzyme is not very helpful in the evaluation of hypertension (high blood pressure).

Preparation

Determination of ACE levels requires a blood sample. The patient need not be fasting.

Risks

Risks for this test are minimal, but may include slight bleeding from the puncture site, fainting or feeling lightheaded after venipuncture, or hematoma (blood accumulating under the puncture site).

Normal results

Normal ranges for this test are laboratory-specific but can range from 8-57 U/ml for patients over 20 years of age.

Abnormal results

Serum ACE levels are elevated in approximately 80-90% of patients with active sarcoidosis. Thyroid hormone may have an effect on ACE activity, as hypothyroid (low thyroid) patients, as well as patients with anorexia nervosa with associated findings of hypothyroidism, may have low serum ACE activity. ACE can also be decreased in lung cancer (bronchogenic carcinoma).

Resources

Books

Pagana, Kathleen Deska. Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests. St. Louis: Mosby, Inc., 1998.

Key terms

Sarcoidosis — Sarcoidosis is a rare disease of unknown cause in which inflammation occurs in lymph nodes and other tissues throughout the body, usually the lungs, skin, liver, and eyes.

angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) test

a blood test used to detect the level of enzyme that converts angiotensinogen into angiotensin.
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