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Many patients are seen in the emergency department (ED) for hypertension, and the numbers will likely increase in the future. Given limited evidence to guide the management of such patients, the practice of one’s peers provides a de facto standard.
A survey was distributed to emergency physicians during academic rounds at three community and four tertiary EDs. The primary outcome measure was the proportion of participants who had a blood pressure (BP) threshold at which they would offer a new antihypertensive prescription to patients they were sending home from the ED. Secondary outcomes included patient- and provider-level factors associated with initiating an antihypertensive based on clinical vignettes of a 69-year-old man with two levels of hypertension (160/100 vs 200/110 mm Hg), as well as the recommended number of days after which to follow up with a primary care provider following ED discharge.
All 81 surveys were completed (100%). Half (51.9%; 95% CI 40.5-63.1) of participants indicated that they had a systolic BP threshold for initiating an antihypertensive, and 55.6% (95% CI 44.1-66.6) had a diastolic threshold: mean systolic threshold was 199 mm Hg (SD 19) while diastolic was 111 mm Hg (SD 8). A higher BP (OR 12.9; 95% CI 7.5-22.2) and more patient comorbidities (OR 3.0; 95% CI 2.1-4.3) were associated with offering an antihypertensive prescription, while physician years of practice, certification type, and hospital type were not. Participants recommended follow-up care within a median 7.0 and 3.0 days for the patient with lower and higher BP levels, respectively.
Half of surveyed emergency physicians report having a BP threshold to start an antihypertensive; BP levels and number of patient comorbidities were associated with a modification of the decision, while physician characteristics were not. Most physicians recommended follow-up care within seven days of ED discharge.
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