Clinical features in the management of selected hypertensive emergencies.Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2006 Mar-Apr; 48(5):316-25.PC
A hypertensive emergency is a clinical diagnosis that is appropriate when marked hypertension is associated with acute target-organ damage; in this setting, lowering of blood pressure (BP) is typically begun within hours of diagnosis. For hypertensive urgency with no acute target-organ damage, BP lowering may occur over hours to days. A hypertensive emergency may present with cardiac, renal, neurologic, hemorrhagic, or obstetric manifestations, but prompt recognition of the condition and institution of rapidly acting parenteral therapy to lower BP (typically in an intensive care unit) are widely recommended. For aortic dissection, the systolic BP target is lower than 120 mm Hg, to be achieved during the first 20 minutes using a beta-blocker (typically esmolol) and a vasodilator to reduce both shear stress on the aortic tear and the BP, respectively. Otherwise, sodium nitroprusside is the agent with the lowest acquisition cost and longest record of successful use in hypertensive emergencies; however, it is metabolized to toxic thiocyanate and cyanide. Other attractive agents include fenoldopam mesylate, nicardipine, and labetalol; in pregnant women, magnesium and nifedipine are used commonly. Most authors suggest a reduction in mean arterial pressure of approximately 10% during the first hour and a further 10% to 15% during the next 2 to 4 hours; hypoperfusion can result if the BP is lowered too suddenly or too far (eg, into the range of <140/90 mm Hg). Oral antihypertensive therapy can usually be instituted after 6 to 12 hours of parenteral therapy, and the patient moved out of the intensive care unit, when consideration should be given to screening for secondary causes of hypertension. Long-term follow-up to ensure adequate control of hypertension is necessary to prevent further target-organ damage and recurrence of another hypertensive emergency.