Skip to Main Content

Key Features

  • Primary hypertension is a diagnosis of exclusion

  • Causes in the newborn include

    • Congenital anomalies of the kidneys or renal vasculature

    • Obstruction of the urinary tract

    • Thrombosis of renal vasculature or kidneys

    • Volume overload

  • Umbilical artery catheterization is an important contributor to hypertension in infants and young children

  • Infants and children with hypertension require careful evaluation to exclude a secondary cause of hypertension, including

    • Renal parenchymal or renovascular disease (renal arterial or venous thrombosis, congenital vascular stenosis)

    • Other vascular disease (vasculitis, aortic coarctation)

    • Endocrine disorders (thyroid disease, cortisol excess, pheochromocytoma, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, primary hyperaldosteronism)

    • Monogenic hypertension (glucocorticoid remediable aldosteronism, Liddle syndrome)

  • Family history should be reviewed for hypertension (particularly early-onset) and cardiovascular disease

Clinical Findings

  • A child is normotensive if the average recorded systolic and diastolic blood pressures are lower than the 90th percentile for age, sex, and height

  • The 90th percentile in the newborn period is approximately 85–90/55–65 mm Hg for both sexes

  • In the first year of life, the acceptable levels are 90–100/60–67 mm Hg

  • Incremental increases with growth occur, gradually approaching young adult ranges of 100–120/65–80 mm Hg in the late teens

  • A blood pressure between the 90th–95th percentile or exceeding 120/80 in adolescents is consistent with prehypertension


  • Routine laboratory studies include serum blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine and electrolytes, a complete blood cell count, and urinalysis

    • Abnormal BUN and creatinine support underlying renal disease as the cause

    • Serum electrolytes demonstrating hypokalemic alkalosis suggest excess mineralocorticoid effect

  • Serum lipids, glucose, hemoglobin A1C, and thyroid function tests are indicated depending on age of child

  • Screening of plasma/urine catecholamines and metanephrines and/or serum cortisol should be obtained as clinically indicated

  • Renal ultrasonography with Doppler flow is helpful in determining the presence of renal scarring, urinary tract obstruction or renovascular flow disturbances

  • Renal magnetic resonance angiography or CT angiography is indicated when there is high suspicion for renal artery stenosis


  • Hypertensive emergency exists when CNS signs of hypertension appear, such as papilledema or encephalopathy

  • Retinal hemorrhages or exudates also indicate a need for prompt and effective control

  • Primary classes of useful antihypertensive drugs

    • ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (the latter used less frequently in children based on less clinical experience and limitations in accurate dosing for smaller children)

    • Calcium channel blockers

    • α- and β-Adrenergic blockers

    • Diuretics

    • Vasodilators

  • Nicardipine is a very effective and generally well-tolerated antihypertensive that is administered via continuous intravenous infusion for control of systemic hypertension

  • Sodium nitroprusside is a very effective infusion to gain control of malignant hypertension, but long-term usage is limited by concern for rare thiocyanate toxicity, especially when renal failure is present

  • Hydralazine is a vasodilator that can be administered intermittently by the intravenous route

  • Any vasodilator can induce reflex tachycardia and sodium retention, so concomitant administration of a β-blocker or diuretic may be indicated


Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.