Recent public education campaigns recommending home blood pressure monitoring may have inadvertently contributed to the rise in emergency visits for hypertension, a study says.
The findings do not suggest that home blood pressure monitoring should be discouraged. What it says is that high blood pressure in itself is not necessarily an emergency.
However, aggressive home monitoring of blood pressure may be driving patients to the emergency departments, despite the lack of other emergency conditions such as a stroke.
"We encourage patients to monitor their blood pressure at home if they have been diagnosed with hypertension, but not every high blood pressure reading is an emergency," explained the lead study author Clare Atzema from the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
During the study period, between 2002 and 2012, in which visits to Ontario emergency departments for hypertension increased from 15,793 to 25,950 per year, the proportion of patients admitted to the hospital as a result decreased from 9.9 per cent to 7.1 per cent.
Among the patients whose emergency department visit ended in admission to the hospital, the most frequent hospital diagnoses were stroke, renal failure and heart failure.
"Stroke remains a huge killer and we do appreciate patients with hypertension being so conscientious about monitoring their readings," Atzema noted.
The study was published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians.
"Patients should be aware that unless their high blood pressure coincides with symptoms of a medical emergency, such as chest pain, severe headache, nausea or shortness of breath, they probably do not need to visit the Emergency room," Atzema said.
"We of course encourage them to follow up as soon as possible with their regular physician. If there is any doubt, come to the emergency department: we would rather have you come without an emergency than stay home with one," Atzema pointed out.