Postgrad Med J. 2021 Oct 20:postgradmedj-2021-140899. doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2021-140899. Online ahead of print.
Hypertensive emergencies are distinguished from hypertensive urgencies by the presence of clinical or laboratory target organ damage. The most common forms of target organ damage in developed countries are pulmonary oedema/heart failure, acute coronary syndrome, ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke. In the absence of randomised trials, it is inevitable that guideline writers differ slightly regarding the speed and extent to which blood pressure should be lowered acutely. An appreciation of cerebral autoregulation is key and should underpin treatment decisions. Hypertensive emergencies, with the notable exception of uncomplicated malignant hypertension, require intravenous antihypertensive medication which is most safely given in high dependency or intensive care settings. Patients with hypertensive urgency are often treated with medications that lower their blood pressure acutely, although there is no evidence to support this practice. This article aims to review current guidelines and recommendations, and to provide user friendly management strategies for the general physician.