Rates of Acute Brain Injury Among Severely Hypertensive Patients Seen in the Emergency Department

Amgad Ishak, Hooman Kamel, Jed H. Kaiser, Vanessa Liao, Jenny Rotblat, Anokhi Pawar, Richard Lappin, Junaid Razzak, Halina White, Catherine Ng, Ava L. Liberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Identifying patients with acute brain injury among patients who present to the Emergency Department (ED) with severe hypertension can be challenging. We explored rates of brain injury in a cohort of ED patients with severe hypertension in whom acute target-organ damage was or was not initially suspected. Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart-review study at two different hospitals within the same urban health system. Consecutive adult patients seen from 10/1/2020 to 5/1/2022 with a systolic blood pressure ≥180 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure ≥120 mmHg were included. Results: A total of 972 patients met our eligibility criteria. The average age was 59 years (SD: 16.5), 454 (46.7%) were women, and 582 (59.9%) were non-White. A total of 186/972 (19.1%) patients were initially thought to have acute target-organ damage in the ED with 97/186 (52.2%) diagnosed with stroke or TIA. The remaining 786/972 (80.9%) patients were not initially diagnosed with target-organ damage (hypertensive urgency [HU]). Of the 786 patients with HU, a head CT was obtained in 216/786 (27.7%) and brain MRI in 74/786 (9.4%). Of the HU patients with a brain MRI, 23/74 (31.1%) had acute abnormalities; most abnormalities on brain MRI (17/23 [73.9%]) were not seen on preceding head CT. Conclusions: In a multicenter study of ED patients, nearly 1 in 5 patients though to have HU who eventually underwent brain MRI had unexpected acute neurological findings, though brain MR was obtained in only 9%.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Neurohospitalist
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • emergency medicine
  • hypertensive crisis
  • hypertensive emergency
  • hypertensive urgency
  • stroke


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