Does This Adult Patient Have Hypertension?: The Rational Clinical Examination Systematic Review

Academic Article


  • Importance: Office blood pressure (BP) measurements are not the most accurate method to diagnose hypertension. Home BP monitoring (HBPM) and 24-hour ambulatory BP monitoring (ABPM) are out-of-office alternatives, and ABPM is considered the reference standard for BP assessment. Objective: To systematically review the accuracy of oscillometric office and home BP measurement methods for correctly classifying adults as having hypertension, defined using ABPM. Data Sources: PubMed, Cochrane Library, Embase,, and DARE databases and the American Heart Association website (from inception to April 2021) were searched, along with reference lists from retrieved articles. Data Extraction and Synthesis: Two authors independently abstracted raw data and assessed methodological quality. A third author resolved disputes as needed. Main Outcomes and Measures: Random effects summary sensitivity, specificity, and likelihood ratios (LRs) were calculated for BP measurement methods for the diagnosis of hypertension. ABPM (24-hour mean BP ≥130/80 mm Hg or mean BP while awake ≥135/85 mm Hg) was considered the reference standard. Results: A total of 12 cross-sectional studies (n = 6877) that compared conventional oscillometric office BP measurements to mean BP during 24-hour ABPM and 6 studies (n = 2049) that compared mean BP on HBPM to mean BP during 24-hour ABPM were included (range, 117-2209 participants per analysis); 2 of these studies (n = 3040) used consecutive samples. The overall prevalence of hypertension identified by 24-hour ABPM was 49% (95% CI, 39%-60%) in the pooled studies that evaluated office measures and 54% (95% CI, 39%-69%) in studies that evaluated HBPM. All included studies assessed sensitivity and specificity at the office BP threshold of 140/90 mm Hg and the home BP threshold of 135/85 mm Hg. Conventional office oscillometric measurement (1-5 measurements in a single visit with BP ≥140/90 mm Hg) had a sensitivity of 51% (95% CI, 36%-67%), specificity of 88% (95% CI, 80%-96%), positive LR of 4.2 (95% CI, 2.5-6.0), and negative LR of 0.56 (95% CI, 0.42-0.69). Mean BP with HBPM (with BP ≥135/85 mm Hg) had a sensitivity of 75% (95% CI, 65%-86%), specificity of 76% (95% CI, 65%-86%), positive LR of 3.1 (95% CI, 2.2-4.0), and negative LR of 0.33 (95% CI, 0.20-0.47). Two studies (1 with a consecutive sample) that compared unattended automated mean office BP (with BP ≥135/85 mm Hg) with 24-hour ABPM had sensitivity ranging from 48% to 51% and specificity ranging from 80% to 91%. One study that compared attended automated mean office BP (with BP ≥140/90 mm Hg) with 24-hour ABPM had a sensitivity of 87.6% (95% CI, 83%-92%) and specificity of 24.1% (95% CI, 16%-32%). Conclusions and Relevance: Office measurements of BP may not be accurate enough to rule in or rule out hypertension; HBPM may be helpful to confirm a diagnosis. When there is uncertainty around threshold values or when office and HBPM are not in agreement, 24-hour ABPM should be considered to establish the diagnosis.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Viera AJ; Yano Y; Lin FC; Simel DL; Yun J; Dave G; Von Holle A; Viera LA; Shimbo D; Hardy ST
  • Start Page

  • 339
  • End Page

  • 347
  • Volume

  • 326
  • Issue

  • 4