Background: The risks and benefits of treating hypertension in individuals older than 80 years are uncertain. A meta-analysis has suggested that a reduction in stroke events of 36% may have to be balanced against a 14% increase in total mortality.
Objectives: To report the results of the pilot study of the Hypertension in the Very Elderly Trial (HYVET), which is in progress to address these issues.
Methods: The HYVET-Pilot was a multicentre international open pilot trial. In 10 European countries, 1283 patients older than 80 years and with a sustained blood pressure of 160-219/90-109 mmHg were allocated randomly to one of three treatments: a diuretic-based regimen (usually bendroflumethiazide; n = 426), an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor regimen (usually lisinopril; n = 431) or no treatment (n = 426). The procedure permitted doses of the drug to be titrated and diltiazem slow-release to be added to active treatment. Target blood pressure was < 150/80 mmHg and mean follow-up was 13 months.
Results: In the combined actively treated groups, the reduction in stroke events relative hazard rate (RHR) was 0.47 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.24 to 0.93] and the reduction in stroke mortality RHR was 0.57 (95% CI 0.25 to 1.32). However, the estimate of total mortality supported the possibility of excess deaths with active treatment (RHR 1.23, 95% CI 0.75 to 2.01).
Conclusions: The preliminary results support the need for the continuing main HYVET trial. It is possible that treatment of 1000 patients for 1 year may reduce stroke events by 19 (nine non-fatal), but may be associated with 20 extra non-stroke deaths.