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Study: Hypertension ER Visits Jumped 25% in 2006–2011

Author cites unmet need for better blood pressure control in outpatient setting

The number of people going to the emergency room (ER) for essential hypertension (high blood pressure with no known cause) increased by 25% in recent years, according to a new study presented at the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions 2014, held September 9–12 in San Farncisco.

“This shows we are not doing a good job in controlling high blood pressure in the outpatient setting,” said lead researcher Sourabh Aggarwal, MD, of the Western Michigan University School of Medicine. “We need better high blood pressure care in this setting.”

Researchers reviewed data on approximately 3.9 million emergency room visits in 2006–2011 in which hypertension was the first listed diagnosis. Their key findings include the following:

  • ER visits for essential hypertension increased by 25%, whereas the admission percentage for these patients fell by 15%.
  • ER visits for hypertension with complications and for secondary hypertension increased by 19%, whereas the admission percentage for these patients fell by 12%.
  • Among admitted patients, the percentage of those who died in the hospital dropped 36%.

“The decrease in admissions and deaths may be due to emergency room and hospital physicians becoming more skilled at treating high blood pressure,” Aggarwal said. “But there is still a large unmet need for patients to have better help controlling their blood pressure in the outpatient setting.”

Hypertension affects 76.4 million adults in the U.S. and is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.

The researchers did not track what brought people to the hospital, but the American Heart Association recommends that a person should go to the ER if his or her blood pressure is above 180/110 mm Hg, which is considered a hypertensive crisis.

Further studies are needed to determine whether factors such as gender or other medical conditions affect the rate of ER visits for hypertension, Aggarwal said.

Source: AHA; September 9, 2014.

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