Cardiovascular risk stratification according to the 2003 ESH-ESC guidelines in uncomplicated patients with essential hypertension: comparison with the 1999 WHO/ISH guidelines criteria

Blood Press. 2004;13(3):144-51. doi: 10.1080/08037050410033169.


Background: The 2003 European Society of Hypertension/European Society of Cardiology (ESH-ESC) guidelines have recently proposed a new risk stratification scheme for estimating absolute risk for cardiovascular disease. At variance from the previous 1999 World Health Organization-International Society of Hypertension (WHO/ISH) guidelines, the new criteria include some additional risk factors such as obesity, abnormal high-density (HDL) or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and define a slight increase in creatinine and microalbuminuria as signs of target organ damage (TOD).

Objective: The aim of the study was to assess overall cardiovascular risk in uncomplicated hypertensives according to the 2003 ESH-ESC guidelines comparing this approach with the stratification scheme of the 1999 WHO/ISH guidelines.

Methods: Four hundred and twenty-five never-treated grade 1 and 2 essential hypertensive patients, referred for the first time to our outpatient clinic without diabetes mellitus, were included in the study. They underwent the following procedures: (i) repeated clinical blood pressure measurements; (ii) routine blood chemistry and urine analysis; (iii) electrocardiogram; (iv) 24-h urine collection for microalbuminuria; (v) echocardiogram; and (vi) carotid ultrasonogram. Risk was assessed according to both stratification schemes suggested by the 2003 ESH-ESC and 1999 WHO/ISH guidelines.

Results: According to the 2003 ESH-ESC guidelines, 15.5% of the 425 patients were considered at low added risk, 47.8% at medium added risk and 36.7% at high added risk; 146 patients (34.3%) were classified in the high-risk stratum because of at least one manifestation of TOD and 5.6% having three or more risk factors. The accuracy in detecting TOD of the combined approach with ultrasound procedures and microalbuminuria was approximately 10-fold higher than that provided by routine investigation. As a result of the 1999 WHO/ISH stratification scheme, 34.5% were low-risk, 34.4% medium-risk and 31.1% high-risk patients.

Conclusions: Our findings show that: (i) more than one-third of uncomplicated grade 1 and 2 hypertensives seen in a outpatient hypertension hospital clinic have a high added risk according to the ESH-ESC scheme; (ii) classification of the patients in the high stratum is mainly influenced by the presence of TOD; (iii) the routine diagnostic work-up is a highly insensitive approach for the detection of TOD; (iv) the 2003 ESH-ESC guidelines stratify a higher proportion of hypertensive patients in the medium and high-risk groups than do the 1999 WHO/ISH guidelines.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications*
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / etiology
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Societies, Medical
  • World Health Organization