Fifty-one patients with urgent hypertension were treated in the emergency department with either oral nifedipine or oral clonidine in a randomized double-blind prospective study. Nifedipine was administered as a single dose of 20 mg. Clonidine was administered as an initial dose of 0.1 mg with hourly doses of 0.1 mg. Nifedipine was successful in reducing diastolic blood pressure in 83% of the patients within 45 minutes and in 96% of the patients within two hours, with a mean reduction in systolic blood pressure of 47 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure of 29 mm Hg. Thirty percent of those who initially responded to nifedipine experienced a subsequent increase in diastolic blood pressure to pretreatment levels within three hours. Clonidine was successful in reducing diastolic blood pressure in 79% of the patients within four hours, with a mean reduction in systolic blood pressure of 51 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure of 30 mm Hg. Our results indicate that both nifedipine and clonidine are safe and effective in the treatment of urgent hypertension. Nifedipine had a much more rapid onset of action with a greater initial success rate, and it was free from the sedative side effects of clonidine. We believe that either nifedipine or clonidine may be used as first-line therapy in the treatment of urgent hypertension.