We're All a Little Abnormal Now and Then

High blood pressure readings among kids in routine visits rarely mean hypertension

(RxWiki News) A couple of things happen every time your child visits the doctor. They weigh your child, take temperature and measure blood pressure. What if your kid's blood pressure is higher than average?

Kids with a high blood pressure reading during routine screening should return in one to two weeks for a follow-up appointment.

However, a recent study found that only a tiny percentage of the kids who came back for follow-up visit had another high blood pressure reading.

Therefore, a first-time high reading may not be cause for alarm. But scheduling a follow-up appointment is still recommended.

"High blood pressure? Call a doctor."

The study, led by Matthew F. Daley, MD, of the Institute for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, investigated how commonly children's blood pressure remained high after an initial high reading.

The researchers reviewed the health records for 2007 through 2010 of 72,625 children, aged 3 to 17, enrolled in three Kaiser Permanente healthcare organizations.

Among these, 8.4 percent (6,108 children) had an elevated blood pressure reading when it was measured as part of a routine visit to the doctor.

When a child has a high blood pressure during a routine check, it is recommended that the child return one to two weeks later for another blood pressure check.

Of the children who had a high blood pressure reading, about 21 percent (1,275 children) returned for a follow-up appointment within the month of the first measurement.

Only 84 children, or 1.4 percent of the original 6,108 kids who had elevated blood pressure at their first reading, had a high blood pressure reading at a second and third visit within the year.

Therefore, out of all the children who first had an elevated blood pressure, fewer than 2 percent ended up being diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) at follow-up visits.

However, only one fifth of those with an initially high reading returned for follow-ups, so it is possible the study missed some of those who did not return.

To see whether it was possible that those who did not return for a follow-up might be more likely to have high blood pressure, the researchers looked at other characteristics of the children.

There were no differences in obesity levels or having a higher systolic blood pressure (top number) when the researchers looked at the kids who came back and those who didn't.

Therefore, the overall rate of 1.4 percent having hypertension is probably approximately accurate for the larger group if every child had returned.

The study was published July 1 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
June 29, 2013
Last Updated:
July 30, 2013