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Risk Of Cerebral Hypoperfusion With Antihypertensive Therapy

Susan C. Eagan, Lance W. Payne, Susan C. Houtekier

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The effective treatment of hypertension is a major factor in the declining incidence of stroke in North America. There are subsets of patients, however, in which antihypertensive therapy may actually cause cerebral ischemia and infarction. Elderly patients and those with malignant hypertension, acute stroke, and occlusive cerebrovascular disease appear to be the populations at greatest risk of iatrogenic stroke. This article reviews the effect of beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, direct vasodilators, and calcium-channel blockers on cerebral blood flow in various populations. Although many investigations have been performed, it remains difficult to predict the risk of cerebral hypoperfusion due to antihypertensive medication in an individual patient. It is best for practitioners to be aware of the patient populations at risk and treat high blood pressure cautiously in these patients.