Many children and adolescents with hypertension are undiagnosed and untreated, researchers report. Detecting hypertension in children is more difficult than in adults, and many practitioners don't watch for it because they consider hypertension to be an adult condition.
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Researchers reviewed medical records of 14,187 patients, ages 3 to 18 years, who had three or more well-child care visits between 1999 and 2006. In all, 507 children and adolescents (3.6%) had hypertension, but only 26% of them were diagnosed with the condition-even though their medical records contained enough information to make the diagnosis. Among 485 other patients with prehypertension, practitioners documented an appropriate diagnosis for only 55 patients (11%).
Researchers recommend building a program into electronic medical records that would automatically review current and prior blood pressures, age, height and weight, and sex and alert the practitioner about abnormal blood pressure criteria. If hypertension isn't managed early, it can do serious damage to vital organs by the time it's detected.