Screening for Hypertension in Adults: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force | Cardiology | JAMA | JAMA Network
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US Preventive Services Task Force
Evidence Report
April 27, 2021

Screening for Hypertension in Adults: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington, Tacoma
  • 2Kaiser Permanente Evidence-based Practice Center, Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente, Portland, Oregon
  • 3Center for Healthcare Policy and Research, University of California, Davis, Sacramento
JAMA. 2021;325(16):1657-1669. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.21669

Importance  Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and can be modified through lifestyle and pharmacological interventions to reduce cardiovascular events and mortality.

Objective  To systematically review the benefits and harms of screening and confirmatory blood pressure measurements in adults, to inform the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Data Sources  MEDLINE, PubMed, Cochrane Collaboration Central Registry of Controlled Trials, and CINAHL; surveillance through March 26, 2021.

Study Selection  Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and nonrandomized controlled intervention studies for effectiveness of screening; accuracy studies for screening and confirmatory measurements (ambulatory blood pressure monitoring as the reference standard); RCTs and nonrandomized controlled intervention studies and observational studies for harms of screening and confirmation.

Data Extraction and Synthesis  Independent critical appraisal and data abstraction; meta-analyses and qualitative syntheses.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Mortality; cardiovascular events; quality of life; sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values; harms of screening.

Results  A total of 52 studies (N = 215 534) were identified in this systematic review. One cluster RCT (n = 140 642) of a multicomponent intervention including hypertension screening reported fewer annual cardiovascular-related hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease in the intervention group compared with the control group (difference, 3.02 per 1000 people; rate ratio, 0.91 [95% CI, 0.86-0.97]). Meta-analysis of 15 studies (n = 11 309) of initial office-based blood pressure screening showed a pooled sensitivity of 0.54 (95% CI, 0.37-0.70) and specificity of 0.90 (95% CI, 0.84-0.95), with considerable clinical and statistical heterogeneity. Eighteen studies (n = 57 128) of various confirmatory blood pressure measurement modalities were heterogeneous. Meta-analysis of 8 office-based confirmation studies (n = 53 183) showed a pooled sensitivity of 0.80 (95% CI, 0.68-0.88) and specificity of 0.55 (95% CI, 0.42-0.66). Meta-analysis of 4 home-based confirmation studies (n = 1001) showed a pooled sensitivity of 0.84 (95% CI, 0.76-0.90) and a specificity of 0.60 (95% CI, 0.48-0.71). Thirteen studies (n = 5150) suggested that screening was associated with no decrement in quality of life or psychological distress; evidence on absenteeism was mixed. Ambulatory blood pressure measurement was associated with temporary sleep disturbance and bruising.

Conclusions and Relevance  Screening using office-based blood pressure measurement had major accuracy limitations, including misdiagnosis; however, direct harms of measurement were minimal. Research is needed to determine optimal screening and confirmatory algorithms for clinical practice.