A retrospective study in an urban, municipal, teaching hospital emergency department (ED) was conducted to evaluate (1) the frequency of asymptomatic hypertension in the ED, (2) the initial assessment and patterns of treatment by physicians, and (3) the changes in blood pressure (BP) in these patients. Patients with systolic BP > or = 180 mm Hg or diastolic BP > or = 110 mm Hg were included. Patients with cardiovascular, renal, or central nervous system dysfunction were excluded. Of the 11,531 charts reviewed, 269 (2.3%) met inclusion criteria. Of the 269 patients, 56 patients (20.8%) received antihypertensive treatment in the ED. The treatment group had a higher systolic BP (P < .001), diastolic BP (P < .001), and mean arterial blood pressure (MAP) (P < .001) than the nontreatment group. Fundoscopy was also performed more frequently in the treatment group (30.2% v 8.9%, P < .001). MAP decreased for both groups in the ED, but was higher in the treatment group (-20+/-21 v -11+/-21 mm Hg, P=.02). Despite the lack of support in the literature for the emergency treatment of asymptomatic hypertension in the ED, the individual physician's decision for treatment correlated with the degree of hypertension. Significantly elevated BP readings in the ED tended to decrease over time independent of any antihypertensive treatment, although the decrease was larger in the treated patients.