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Original Investigation
July 2016

Characteristics and Outcomes of Patients Presenting With Hypertensive Urgency in the Office Setting

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Medicine Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio
  • 2Department of Cardiology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
  • 3Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio
  • 4Department of Nephrology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio
JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(7):981-988. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1509

Importance  The prevalence and short-term outcomes of hypertensive urgency (systolic blood pressure ≥180 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure ≥110 mm Hg) are unknown. Guidelines recommend achieving blood pressure control within 24 to 48 hours. However, some patients are referred to the emergency department (ED) or directly admitted to the hospital, and whether hospital management is associated with better outcomes is unknown.

Objectives  To describe the prevalence of hypertensive urgency and the characteristics and short-term outcomes of these patients, and to determine whether referral to the hospital is associated with better outcomes than outpatient management.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This retrospective cohort study with propensity matching included all patients presenting with hypertensive urgency to an office in the Cleveland Clinic Healthcare system from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2013. Pregnant women and patients referred to the hospital for symptoms or treatment of other conditions were excluded. Final follow-up was completed on June 30, 2014, and data were assessed from October 31, 2014, to May 31, 2015.

Exposures  Hospital vs ambulatory blood pressure management.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) consisting of acute coronary syndrome and stroke or transient ischemic attack, uncontrolled hypertension (≥140/90 mm Hg), and hospital admissions.

Results  Of 2 199 019 unique patient office visits, 59 836 (4.6%) met the definition of hypertensive urgency. After excluding 851 patients, 58 535 were included. Mean (SD) age was 63.1 (15.4) years; 57.7% were women; and 76.0% were white. Mean (SD) body mass index (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) was 31.1 (7.6); mean (SD) systolic blood pressure, 182.5 (16.6) mm Hg; and mean (SD) diastolic blood pressure, 96.4 (15.8) mm Hg. In the propensity-matched analysis, the 852 patients sent home were compared with the 426 patients referred to the hospital, with no significant difference in MACE at 7 days (0 vs 2 [0.5%]; P = .11), 8 to 30 days (0 vs 2 [0.5%]; P = .11), or 6 months (8 [0.9%] vs 4 [0.9%]; P > .99). Patients sent home were more likely to have uncontrolled hypertension at 1 month (735 of 852 [86.3%] vs 349 of 426 [81.9%]; P = .04) but not at 6 months (393 of 608 [64.6%] vs 213 of 320 [66.6%]; P = .56). Patients sent home had lower hospital admission rates at 7 days (40 [4.7%] vs 35 [8.2%]; P = .01) and at 8 to 30 days (59 [6.9%] vs 48 [11.3%]; P = .009).

Conclusions and Relevance  Hypertensive urgency is common, but the rate of MACE in asymptomatic patients is very low. Visits to the ED were associated with more hospitalizations, but not improved outcomes. Most patients still had uncontrolled hypertension 6 months later.