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Acad Emerg Med. 2005 Sep;12(9):835-43.

Elevated blood pressure in urban emergency department patients.

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Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA.



There has been little systematic study of emergency department (ED) patients with elevated blood pressure (BP) values. The authors sought to characterize ED patients with elevated BP values, assess presenting symptoms, and determine the prevalence of elevated BP after discharge.


This was a cross-sectional study performed in four academic EDs. Adults presenting with systolic BP >or=140 mm Hg or diastolic BP >or=90 mm Hg were enrolled over a one-week equivalent period. Demographics, medical history, and symptoms were obtained by chart abstraction and structured interview. A random patient subset underwent a three-week follow-up interview. BP measurements were staged, using Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC-VI) criteria, according to the greatest value noted in the ED.


A total of 1,396 patients were enrolled. Stage 1 BP values were noted in 44.3%, stage 2 in 25.3%, and stage 3 in 30.3%. African American patients more frequently had stage 2 and 3 BP values than other ethnic groups. BP measurements were repeated in 61.1% of patients and were the same or greater in 51.3% of patients. Dyspnea was associated with greater BP values. Among the 63.9% of patients who were interviewed, 52.7% were not being treated for hypertension, and 42.1% of those with hypertension had recently missed a medication dose. Follow-up was obtained in 74.7% of those targeted. A visit to a medical practitioner since discharge was reported by 63.2%; of these, 26.1% reported that their BP remained elevated.


Elevated BP is common among ED patients. African American patients are more likely than those of other ethnic groups to have greater BP values. The ED visit may be a good opportunity to identify patients with unrecognized or poorly controlled hypertension.

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