UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Hypertensive crisis in children

Keywords: hypertension, pediatrics (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/17/2016 by Jennifer Guyther, MD
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Hypertension is defined as a systolic or diastolic blood pressure > 95% for age, sex and height based on repeated measurements. There is no numeric blood pressure cut of for defining hypertensive emergency in pediatrics. Use a reference book such as Harriet Lane Handbook to determine percentiles. The proper size BP cuff should be used: bladder width that is at least 40% of the arm circumference at the midpoint of the upper arm and a length that is 80-100% of the arm circumference.
Hypertensive crisis in children younger than 6 years may present with: irritability, feeding disturbance, vomiting, failure to thrive, seizure, altered mental status, or congestive heart failure.
Treatment in the Emergency Setting
-Lower the BP to < 95 percentile in children with HTN and no signs of end organ dysfunction
-Lower the BP to < 90 percentile in children with end organ dysfunction or co-morbid conditions
-Start with IV if able
-Few anti hypertensive medications have been studied adequately in children.
-The cited article has a table of antihypertensive medications with doses to be used in children, but only 4 have FDA approved labeling for pediatrics (hydralazine, fenoldopam, sodium nitroprusside and minoxidil)


Stein DR, Ferguson MA. Evaluation and treatment of hypertensive crisis in children. Integr Blood Press Control 2016; 9:49-58.