Doctors often miss high blood pressure in kids
Even though blood pressure readings are standard at any check up, doctors and nurses often miss abnormal readings in children -- and in some cases don't bother to check blood pressure at all, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins researchers.
The findings, published in the latest issue of Pediatrics, underscore the need for better monitoring in children of a condition that most of us erroneously associate with adults, the authors say.
In an analysis of 2,500 child medical records, medical staff failed to check a child's blood pressure in about 500 of them -- about a fifth of the total. And while higher than normal blood pressure scores were recorded in 726 of the 2,000 cases, the implications of the problem weren't recognized in 87 percent of them, the research found. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine blood pressure checks for all children ages 3 and over. Three consecutive high readings could indicate hypertension, according to the AAP.
Taking a child's blood pressure isn't as straightforward as you might think. For adults, high blood pressure is a pretty standard benchmark. But for children, each reading needs to be checked on a chart of a child's age, weight, height and gender, writes Dr. Tammy Brady, the study's lead author.
I spoke with Dr. Brady last year on this story about doctors not only missing hypertension in children, but missing the clues of a serious heart problem associated with it. The condition, left ventricular hypertrophy, or LVH, can lead to heart failure, rhythm abnormalities and death. Black children are at a higher risk of developing it.
Doctors know to look for high blood pressure in obese children or those with family members with the disease. But too often, they overlook children without symptoms or risk factors, the authors warn.
"Nurses and doctors may be so falsely reassured by a child’s lack of symptoms and risk factors that they either miss milder elevations or may chalk them up to measurement error and never follow up on them,” Brady said in a statement.