About three-quarters of cases went unnoticed, study found
TUESDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors spotted only one in four children who had high blood pressure in a new study, showing how easily and often the dangerous problem is missed.
"Hypertension in children is very underdiagnosed," said study co-author Dr. David Kaelber, a pediatrician, internist and fellow at the Center for Information Technology Leadership at Harvard Medical School.
In a group of more than 14,000 youngsters under the age of 18, researchers from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and Harvard found that just 26 percent of those with high blood pressure were properly diagnosed.
That means that about 1.5 million American children currently have undiagnosed high blood pressure, Kaelber said.
One of the biggest reasons that hypertension is missed in children is that normal blood pressure values change based on a child's age, gender and height. So, while 120/80 mm/Hg is a normal reading for an adult and for some older children, that same reading could indicate high blood pressure in a younger, shorter child.
Tables are available that allow health-care professionals to plot out a child's height, weight, gender and blood pressure readings. Those tables help determine what percentile a child falls into; youngsters who consistently rank above the 95th percentile are considered to have high blood pressure.
A child must have three readings that fall into the high blood pressure category before the diagnosis can be accurately made, Kaelber said. That makes diagnosis tough, he added, since a long time can elapse between each well-child visit.
Because of these challenges, and because other researchers have noted obesity-linked increases in childhood hypertension, Kaelber's team assessed how well high blood pressure was diagnosed in youngsters.
To do so, they examined data from a group of mo
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