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Management of hypertensive emergencies.


Between 1975 and 1985, 454 patients with hypertension were admitted to the Renal Unit of the Hospital for Sick Children. A total of 110 (24%) patients presented with severely raised blood pressures deemed to require emergency management. At presentation 84/110 had symptoms and signs of long standing hypertension with neurological involvement. Between 1975 and 1980 bolus intravenous injections of diazoxide and/or hydralazine were used with the aim of reducing the blood pressure to within the normal range for age in the first 12-24 hours after admission. Of 57 patients treated in this way 13 developed hypotensive complications and four, whose blood pressures returned to normal within 24 hours of admission, suffered irreversible neurological damage. Subsequently, the management changed to the use of intravenous infusions of labetalol (1-3 mg/kg/hour) and/or sodium nitroprusside (0.5-8 micrograms/kg/min) to enable a more gradual controlled reduction of blood pressure over the first 96 hours of admission. Between 1980 and 1985, 53 patients were treated using this regimen. In all cases blood pressure reduction was achieved in a more controlled manner without further neurological impairment or serious irreversible side effects. From our experience, the use of labetalol and sodium nitroprusside by incremental infusion in the critical early phase of management has resulted in improved control of accelerated hypertension without the sudden hypotensive episodes seen when bolus injections are used.

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