Data about acute renal function in hypertensive crises are scarce. We hypothesised that acute kidney damage could result from hypertensive emergency (HE), as indicated by the earliest biomarker of kidney injury, neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL). Thus, we compared renal function between patients with HE, patients with urgencies and normotensive controls. Sixty emergency department patients were enroled in a prospective, cross-sectional study. Creatinine, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), NGAL and cystatin C were measured and estimated glomerular filtration rate was calculated (eGFR). Creatinine and BUN were significantly higher and eGFR was significantly lower in HE as compared with urgencies or controls (P<0.01). Similarly, cystatin C and NGAL levels were significantly higher in emergencies compared with the other groups (P<0.001). All renal function parameters were similar between urgencies and controls. Among HE, NGAL was significantly higher (61%) in patients with pulmonary oedema than in those with cerebral events (P=0.008), whereas the other parameters were not significantly different. In conclusion, this crosssectional investigation showed that markers of acute and chronic kidney injury were higher in patients with HE than in urgencies or controls. These results should encourage further studies to better characterise the role of acute kidney damage in hypertensive pulmonary oedema, and HE in general.