In a study sample consisting of 388 unselected, consecutive acute stroke patients, 27 with systolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 200 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 115 mmHg were compared with the other 361 patients. The patients with high blood pressure were younger (65 vs. 73 years) and much more often had a history of hypertension (78 vs. 42%). Cardiac and vascular hypertensive manifestations were more frequent, particularly when only those patients with a history of hypertension were compared in the two groups. Alcohol abuse was mentioned in a higher proportion of hypertensives in the summaries of their medical records. No definite conclusions could be drawn with regard to the size and location of the brain lesions. Clinical symptoms did not differ between the groups, neither did the proportion of patients who could be discharged from hospital immediately. Mortality was higher in the high blood pressure group (30 vs. 14%, P less than 0.05). Thus the characteristics of patients with very high blood pressure were: younger age, much more frequent and severe previous hypertension. Alcohol abuse might be an important factor. The type, size and location of the brain lesion itself could not be statistically related to the high blood pressure, but very large lesions, particularly haemorrhages, might be associated with a reactive blood pressure response.