ER Visits For Hypertension Common and Increasing

Candace D. McNaughton,

Dr. McNaughton Interview with:
Candace D. McNaughton, MD MPH FACEP
Assistant Professor
Emergency Medicine Research
Department of Emergency Medicine, Research Division
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. McNaughton: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects 1/3rd of adults in the United States and more than 1 billion people worldwide.  It is also the #1 risk factor for cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke, so it is very important to treat.

The burden of hypertension in the emergency department is not well understood.  The ER is not usually thought of as a place where perhaps we could or should be addressing hypertension; that has traditionally be left up to primary care providers. Through this study, our goals were to gain a better understanding of how many ER visits were either related to hypertension or were solely because of hypertension, and to determine whether this changed from 2006 to 2012.

We found that emergency room visits related to or solely for hypertension were common and that they both rose more than 20% from 2006 to 2012. Visits to the emergency department specifically for hypertension were more common among patients who were younger, healthier, and less likely to have health insurance. Despite increases in the number of ER visits related to hypertension, the proportion of patients who were hospitalized did not increase; this suggests that doctors in emergency departments may be more aware of hypertension and/or may be managing it without having to hospitalize patients.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. McNaughton: Visits to the emergency department among patients with hypertension are common (25% of all adult emergency room visits) and are becoming even more common. Visits to the emergency department specifically for hypertension are becoming more common, as well.  This study highlights the burden of hypertension among patients who seek care in the emergency department. It is important for clinicians and patients to remember the importance of weight loss, exercise, diet changes, and taking blood pressure medication to lower blood pressure.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. McNaughton: More work is needed to better understand what role the emergency department may be able to safely play in helping patients with hypertension, as well as other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart failure, improve their health.


Am J Cardiol. 2015 Dec 1;116(11):1717-23. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2015.09.007. Epub 2015 Sep 10.

Incidence of Hypertension-Related Emergency Department Visits in the United States, 2006 to 2012.

McNaughton CD1, Self WH2, Zhu Y3, Janke AT4, Storrow AB2, Levy P5.


Candace D. McNaughton, MD MPH FACEP (2015). ER Visits For Hypertension Common and Increasing 

Last Updated on November 24, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD