Prevalence of neurological complaints among emergency department patients with severe hypertension

Ava L. Liberman, Hooman Kamel, Richard Lappin, Amgad Ishak, Babak B. Navi, Neal S. Parikh, Alexander Merkler, Junaid Razzak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Severe hypertension can accompany neurological symptoms without obvious signs of target organ damage. However, acute cerebrovascular events can also be a cause and consequence of severe hypertension. We therefore use US population-level data to determine prevalence and clinical characteristics of patients with severe hypertension and neurological complaints. Methods: We used nationally representative data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) collected in 2016–2019 to identify adult ED patients with severely elevated blood pressure (BP) defined as systolic BP ≥ 180 mmHg and/or diastolic BP ≥120 mmHg. We used ED reason for visit data fields to define neurological complaints and used diagnosis data fields to define acute target organ damage. We applied survey visit weights to obtain national estimates. Results: Based on 5083 observations, an estimated 40.4 million patients (95% CI: 37.5–43.0 million) in EDs nationwide from 2016 to 2019 had severe hypertension, equating to 6.1% (95% CI: 5.7–6.5%) of all ED visits. Only 2.8% (95% CI: 2.0–3.9%) of ED patients with severe hypertension were diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular disease; hypertensive urgency was diagnosed in 92.0% (95% CI: 90.3–93.4%). Neurological complaints were frequent in both patients with (75.6%) and without (19.9%) cerebrovascular diagnoses. Hypertensive urgency patients with neurological complaints were more often older, female, had prior stroke/TIA, and had neuroimaging than patients without these complaints. Non-migraine headache and vertigo were the most common neurological complaints recorded. Conclusion: In a nationally representative survey, one-in-sixteen ED patients had severely elevated BP and one-fifth of those patients had neurological complaints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-95
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergency medicine
  • Hypertensive emergency
  • Hypertensive urgency
  • Stroke


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