Blood pressure control in acute cerebrovascular disease

J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2011 Mar;13(3):205-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7176.2010.00394.x. Epub 2010 Dec 10.


Acute cerebrovascular diseases (ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, and subarachnoid hemorrhage) affect 780,000 Americans each year. Physicians who care for patients with these conditions must be able to recognize when acute hypertension requires treatment and should understand the principles of cerebral autoregulation and perfusion. Physicians should also be familiar with the various pharmacologic agents used in the treatment of cerebrovascular emergencies. Acute ischemic stroke frequently presents with hypertension, but the systemic blood pressure should not be treated unless the systolic pressure exceeds 220 mm Hg or the diastolic pressure exceeds 120 mm Hg. Overly aggressive treatment of hypertension can compromise collateral perfusion of the ischemic penumbra. Hypertension associated with intracerebral hemorrhage can be treated more aggressively to minimize hematoma expansion during the first 3 to 6 hours of illness. Subarachnoid hemorrhage is usually due to aneurysmal rupture; systolic blood pressure should be kept <150 mm Hg to prevent re-rupture of the aneurysm. Nicardipine and labetalol are recommended for rapidly treating hypertension during cerebrovascular emergencies. Sodium nitroprusside is not recommended due to its adverse effects on cerebral autoregulation and intracranial pressure. Hypoperfusion of the injured brain should be avoided at all costs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology
  • Brain Ischemia / prevention & control*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / prevention & control*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Diastole
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Hypertension / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / etiology
  • Stroke / prevention & control*
  • Systole


  • Antihypertensive Agents