Contemporary practice patterns in the management of newly diagnosed hypertension.
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OBJECTIVE: To determine what proportion of patients with hypertension are managed in accordance with guidelines established by the Canadian Hypertension Society. DESIGN: Retrospective medical record review. SETTING: Outpatients seen in primary care offices and internal medicine referral clinics in Edmonton. PATIENTS: All 969 adults who presented with a new diagnosis of essential hypertension from Sept. 1, 1993, to Dec. 31, 1995. OUTCOME MEASURES: Initial laboratory tests performed, advice concerning nonpharmacologic treatment given, antihypertensive drugs prescribed and any contraindications to thiazide diuretics or beta-adrenergic blocking agents documented. RESULTS: The mean age of the 969 patients in the sample was 52.5 years; 129 (13%) of the patients were older than 70 years of age; and 500 (52%) were women. Most of the patients (704, 73%) had mild or moderate diastolic hypertension. In the 617 patients who underwent laboratory tests related to hypertension, the creatinine level was determined in 466 (76%), the cholesterol level in 372 (60%), a urinalysis was conducted in 378 (61%), the serum potassium level was checked in 343 (56%), the sodium level in 323 (52%) and an electrocardiogram was performed in 303 (49%). Liver function tests, which are not recommended in the guidelines, were performed in 338 patients (55%). Although there were differences in prescribing among physicians in the 711 patients given first-line therapy, most (238, 34%) were prescribed angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. Lifestyle modification, without drug therapy, was suggested for 180 (25%) of the patients. Although the guidelines recommend their use for first-line drug therapy, only 82 patients (12%) were given beta-adrenergic blocking agents and only 75 (11%) were given thiazide diuretics. Of the patients who were prescribed an antihypertensive other than a thiazide or beta-adrenergic blocking agent as first-line drug therapy, only 161 (43%) had a documented contraindication to thiazides or beta-adrenergic blocking agents. CONCLUSIONS: There is variation in the contemporary care of patients with hypertension. Further studies are required to determine the reasons underlying physicians' noncompliance with the evidence-based guidelines established by the Canadian Hypertension Society.
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