The aim of this study was to perform an extensive evaluation of target organ status, metabolic abnormalities and hemodynamic alterations in white coat hypertension (WCH). Fifty normotensive (NT), 90 WCH (ambulatory daytime blood pressure < 135/85 mmHg) and 101 hypertensive (HT) subjects underwent extensive biochemical, echocardiographic, fundoscopic examination. In a subgroup study, arterial compliance and intima-media thickness (IMT) were measured by Doppler ultrasound in left common carotid artery. WCH subjects were found to have higher body mass index (BMI) than the NTs (p = 0.042). Left ventricle mass index (LVMI) was greater in the WCHs than the NTs (p < 0.001), but significantly less than the HTs (p < 0.001). Hypertensive retinopathy was observed in the WCHs, but was less severe and rare compared to the HTs (13% vs 27%). Both WCHs and HTs had high levels of urinary albumin excretion (UAE) (p = not significant). Total cholesterol was higher in WCHs than in the NTs (p = 0.04) The distensibility coefficient (DC) of the WCHs was significantly greater than the HTs (p < 0.01), while significantly smaller than the NTs (p < 0.01). The compliance coefficient (CC) of the WCHs was significantly higher than the HTs (p < 0.01), and significantly less than the NTs (p < 0.01). The IMT in the HTs was significantly higher than the WCHs (0.81 +/- 0.05 vs 0.70 +/- 0.04 mm; p < 0.001) and the NTs (p < 0.001). The difference between the NTs and the WCHs was not significant. Our data indicate that patients with WCH represent an intermediate group between NTs and sustained HTs where target organ damage and cardiovascular risk is concerned.