Objective: To determine if previously hypertensive patients with acute ischemic stroke should be treated with antihypertensive medication in the immediate poststroke period.
Design: Randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Setting: Sixteen consecutive hypertensive patients (four men and 12 women; mean age, 66 years [age range, 46 to 83 years]) with middle cerebral artery infarction within 72 hours of onset and blood pressure between 170 and 220 mm Hg(systolic) and 95 and 120 mm Hg (diastolic).
Intervention: Placebo (n = 6), nicardipine hydrochloride (20 mg [n = 5]), captopril (12.5 mg [n = 3]), or clonidine hydrochloride (0.1 mg [n = 2]) given every 8 hours for 3 days.
Main outcome measures: Decline in blood pressure, change in cerebral blood flow as measured by single photon emission computed tomography, and clinical change as determined by the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale.
Results: Blood pressure fell significantly in both the drug-treated group as a whole and in those patients receiving placebo (P < .001). There was no difference in blood pressure levels between these two groups throughout the study period. Patients receiving nicardipine had a consistently lower pressure than the other groups. A significant negative relationship was noted between the maximum blood pressure fall and improvement in cerebral blood flow. There were four patients whose blood pressure dropped by more than 16% of the baseline value on any 24 hours in the first 3 days. All either failed to increase or actually decreased their cerebral blood flow to the affected area. Three of these patients were treated with nicardipine. There was no significant difference in clinical course between the placebo-and drug-treated groups as a whole.
Conclusions: Hypertensive ischemic stroke patients with a moderate elevation of blood pressure in the first few days may not require antihypertensive therapy. Nicardipine and possibly other calcium channel blockers may cause an excessive fall in blood pressure and impair cerebral blood flow in these patients and should therefore be used with caution.