Question and Answer: Hypertension After Surgery

Causes of Hypertension After a Surgical Procedure

Causes of Hypertension, Hypertension After Surgery
Effects of Hypertension. Image: A.D.A.M

Question: I didn’t have high blood pressure before surgery, but now I do. I don’t understand why I have hypertension now when my blood pressure was perfect before my procedure. What is causing this change?

Answer: There are many causes of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, and your newly elevated blood pressure may or may not be related to your surgery.

Pain and High Blood Pressure After Surgery

Pain is one of the easiest ways to increase your blood pressure.

 I wouldn't recommend it, but experiencing severe pain while having your blood pressure taken is a recipe for a high reading.

Your increased blood pressure may be the result of the fact that it is painful to sit in the waiting room of your doctor's office after surgery, or it may be painful for you to walk to the examination room before your blood pressure is taken.  Perhaps you have mild to moderate pain most of the day during your first few days of recovery, which can certainly cause an increase in blood pressure.

Other Causes of High Blood Pressure After Surgery

Not in pain? Well, there are other reasons why your blood pressure could be increased.  Most people feel like they have extra fluid in their body after surgery, which may show up as edema (swelling) in the hands, feet and legs.  

Were you asked to skip your blood pressure medications the morning of surgery? Did you miss any doses during your recovery or have your dosages been changed?

 That will also change your level of control over your blood pressure.  

Having a salty meal or radically changing your diet can also make noticeable changes in your blood pressure and some medications increase blood pressure--are you taking any new medications?

Don't Ignore High Blood Pressure After Surgery

The cause of the hypertension is not as important as making sure it either goes away on its own or you seek treatment.

Hypertension can lead to a stroke and other serious complications. Many people do not have symptoms when they have high blood pressure, which is why it is called "a silent killer."

If you haven’t talked to your surgeon, he needs to be made aware of this issue. Your primary care physician can also be a source of guidance if it continues.

Primary Hypertension

Hypertension is blood pressure that is consistently elevated to 140/90 or higher. Primary hypertension means that an unrelated disease or problem is not responsible for the problem.

General Causes of Hypertension

  • Smoking
  • Too much dietary salt
  • Obesity/overweight
  • Family history of hypertension
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Pain
  • Stress — emotional and physical (i.e., surgery)

Secondary Hypertension

Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that is caused by an unrelated condition in the body.  That means that a sickness, medication or even a disease process in your body is causing your blood pressure to be elevated.

Causes of Secondary Hypertension

  • Kidney disease or kidney surgery
  • Pregnancy - preeclampsia and eclampsia
  • Prescription medication - including steroids and hormones
  • Over-the-counter medication - includes pain relievers and cold medicines
  • Illicit drugs - cocaine, crystal meth, amphetamines
  • Caffeine
  • Adrenal gland dysfunction
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Coarctation of the Aorta - narrowing of the aorta (present from birth) that causes high blood pressure in the arms
  • Sleep disorders - including Sleep Apnea

White Coat Hypertension

White coat hypertension is the term for high blood pressure that is elevated during medical visits but is normal at home. Monitoring blood pressure at home or elsewhere outside of the clinical environment may provide more accurate readings in patients who have anxiety regarding medical care.

Most people who believe they have white coat hypertension actually have real hypertension, so testing the blood pressure at home on a regular basis is important.

More Information: Answers to Common Questions After Surgery


Johns Hopkins Health Alert: Hypertension and Stroke

Causes of Secondary Hypertension. US News and World Report

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