Accuracy of a symptom-based approach to identify hypertensive emergencies in the emergency department

Fabrizio Vallelonga, Federica Carbone, Francesco Benedetto, Lorenzo Airale, Silvia Totaro, Dario Leone, Anna Astarita, Eleonora Avenatti, Simona Maule, Franco Veglio, Enrico Lupia, Alberto Milan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: A hierarchical symptoms-based diagnostic strategy relying on the presence of five main symptoms (chest pain, acute dyspnea, neurological symptoms, headache, visual impairment) was recently proposed to diagnose patients with hypertensive emergency. However, poor scientific evidence is available about the role of symptoms in both diagnosis and management of acute hypertensive disorders. Methods: Data from 718 patients presenting to the emergency department of the “Città della Salute e della Scienza” Hospital of Turin with systolic blood pressure >180 and/or diastolic blood pressure > 110 mm/Hg were retrospectively analyzed. The accuracy of the typical symptoms for identification of hypertensive emergencies was assessed. Results: A total of 79 (11%) out of 718 patients were diagnosed with hypertensive emergencies (51% had cardiovascular and 49% neurovascular acute organ damage). Patients with hypertensive emergencies were older and with higher prevalence of coronary artery disease and chronic heart failure than patients with uncontrolled hypertension. Typical symptoms could discriminate true hypertensive emergency from uncontrolled hypertension with 64% accuracy, 94% sensitivity, and 60% specificity. Conclusion: Typical symptoms might be used as a simple screening test (99% negative predictive value) in the emergency department to select for further evaluations of patients with suspected hypertensive emergencies among those with acute hypertensive disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2201
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Diagnostic approach
  • Hypertensive emergencies
  • Symptoms accuracy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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