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J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2011;13:744–749. ©2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Despite the increased risk of myocardial infarction, aortic dissection, and arrhythmias in patients with hypertension who use cocaine, the hemodynamic and arrhythmogenic effects of cocaine use have not been well characterized in this population. The authors hypothesized that patients with hypertension demonstrate extreme, transient changes in arterial pressures as well as new arrhythmic activity during cocaine use. Ambulatory blood pressures, heart rates, and electrocardiograms (AECGs) were recorded for 48 hours in 10 patients with a history of hypertension who smoke cocaine. Active cocaine use was identified through patient diaries and manual activation of the blood pressure cuff. Of the 10 patients studied (6 men, 7 African Americans, age 49±8 years), 8 were taking antihypertensive medications. The mean blood pressure prior to cocaine use was 126/77 mm Hg and average increase in systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial pressure after use was 74 mm Hg, 30 mm Hg, and 45 mm Hg, respectively (P<.0001 for all). There was no significant change in heart rate. AECGs demonstrated arrhythmic activity during cocaine use, including 6 patients with increased atrial and ventricular ectopy, 2 patients with episodes of nonsustained atrial tachycardia, and 1 patient with 3 episodes of nonsustained monomorphic ventricular tachycardia. Cocaine use resulted in extreme elevations in arterial pressures in patients with hypertension taking medication. Cocaine use was also associated with an increase in arrhythmic activity. These findings may underlie the heightened risk of myocardial infarction, aortic dissection, and potentially lethal arrhythmias in patients with hypertension who use cocaine.