Health Team

Study: Hypertension Often Undiagnosed in Children

Posted August 21, 2007 2:46 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2007 7:45 p.m. EDT

— High blood pressure is not just a problem for some adults, it can happen to children as well. Officials said there is likely 1 million children in the U.S. with hypertension, but a new study shows their pediatricians have not diagnosed it.

Some might assume if a child has a disease, their pediatrican will figure it out. However, Dr. David Kaelber, who conducted the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said that is really not the case.

Kaelber, who works at Childrens' Hospital in Boston, said it is not just a small percentage of children with undiagnosed high blood pressure.

"In fact, the overwhelming majority of patients with this disease , we're not detecting it," he said.

Kaelber said only one-fourth of all children with high blood pressure are diagnosed, and it's usually the older, taller and heavier ones.

"To try to simplify this as much as possible, the more the child was like an adult, the more likely it was that their blood pressure would have been picked up," he said.

Still, even if pediatricians want to focus on this issue, it's not easy to diagnose high blood pressure in kids.

"The challenge here is that there's literally hundreds of normal and abnormal blood pressure values for children," Kaelber said.

Kaelber said pediatricians should make the effort because high blood pressure can be a sign of serious illness or may lead to health problems later in life.

"I think it's good for them to get their blood pressure checked because you never know what's going on," said mother Delores Ellison-Moss.

In the study, researchers reviewed seven years of electronic medical records for about 15,000 children ages 3 to 18. They compared blood pressure data in the records to the number of actual diagnoses.