Hypertension - infants
High blood pressure (hypertension) is an increase in the force of blood against the arteries in the body. This article focuses on high blood pressure in infants.
Blood pressure measures how hard the heart is working, and how healthy the arteries are. There are 2 numbers in each blood pressure measurement:
Blood pressure measurements are written this way: 120/80. One or both of these numbers can be too high.
Several factors affect blood pressure, including:
High blood pressure in infants may be due to kidney or heart disease that is present at birth (congenital). Common examples include:
In newborn babies, high blood pressure is often caused by a blood clot in a kidney blood vessel, a complication of having an umbilical artery catheter.
Other causes of high blood pressure in infants may include:
Blood pressure rises as the baby grows. The average blood pressure in a newborn is 64/41. The average blood pressure in a child 1 month through 2 years old is 95/58. It is normal for these numbers to vary.
Most babies with high blood pressure will not have symptoms. Instead, symptoms may be related to the condition causing the high blood pressure. These symptoms may include:
Symptoms that may appear if the baby has very high blood pressure include:
In most cases, the only sign of high blood pressure is the blood pressure measurement itself.
Signs of very high blood pressure include:
Blood pressure in infants is measured with an automatic device.
Other tests in infants with high blood pressure will try to find the cause of the problem. Such tests may include:
The treatment depends on the cause of high blood pressure in the infant. Treatment can include:
How well the baby does depends on the cause of high blood pressure and other factors such as:
Untreated, high blood pressure may lead to:
Call your health care provider if your baby:
Take your baby to the emergency department if your baby:
Some causes of high blood pressure run in families. Talk to your provider before you get pregnant if you have a family history of:
Also talk to your provider before becoming pregnant if you take medicine for a health problem. Exposure to certain drugs in the womb may increase your baby's risk of developing problems that can lead to high blood pressure.
Beard L, Neonatology. In: Engorn B, Flerlage J, eds. The Harriet Lane Handbook: A Manual for Pediatric House Officers. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 18.
Lande MB. Systemic hypertension. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 445.
National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group on High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents. The fourth report on the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of high blood pressure in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2004;114 (2 Suppl 4th Report):555-576. PMID: 15286277
Last reviewed on: 5/6/2016
Reviewed by: Scott I Aydin, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Division of Pediatric Cardiology and Critical Care Medicine, The Children's Hospital at Montefiore, Bronx, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.