Appropriateness of Bolus Antihypertensive Therapy for Elevated Blood Pressure in the Emergency Department.

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West J Emerg Med


INTRODUCTION: While moderate to severely elevated blood pressure (BP) is present in nearly half of all emergency department (ED) patients, the incidence of true hypertensive emergencies in ED patients is low. Administration of bolus intravenous (IV) antihypertensive treatment to lower BP in patients without a true hypertensive emergency is a wasteful practice that is discouraged by hypertension experts; however, anecdotal evidence suggests this occurs with relatively high frequency. Accordingly, we sought to assess the frequency of inappropriate IV antihypertensive treatment in ED patients with elevated BP absent a hypertensive emergency.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective cohort study from a single, urban, teaching hospital. Using pharmacy records, we identified patients age 18-89 who received IV antihypertensive treatment in the ED. We defined treatment as inappropriate if documented suspicion for an indicated cardiovascular condition or acute end-organ injury was lacking. Data abstraction included adverse events and 30-day readmission rates, and analysis was primarily descriptive.

RESULTS: We included a total of 357 patients over an 18-month period. The mean age was 55; 51% were male and 93% black, and 127 (36.4%) were considered inappropriately treated. Overall, labetalol (61%) was the most commonly used medication, followed by enalaprilat (18%), hydralazine (18%), and metoprolol (3%). There were no significant differences between appropriate and inappropriate BP treatment groups in terms of clinical characteristics or adverse events. Hypotension or bradycardia occurred in three (2%) patients in the inappropriate treatment cohort and in two (1%) patients in the appropriately treated cohort. Survival to discharge and 30-day ED revisit rates were equivalent.

CONCLUSION: More than one in three patients who were given IV bolus antihypertensive treatment in the ED received such therapy inappropriately by our definition, suggesting that significant resources could perhaps be saved through education of providers and development of clearly defined BP treatment protocols.

Medical Subject Headings

Administration, Intravenous; Adult; Aged; Antihypertensive Agents; Emergency Service, Hospital; Female; Hospitals, Teaching; Hospitals, Urban; Humans; Hypertension; Male; Medication Errors; Middle Aged; Retrospective Studies

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