Hypertension occurs in 2% to 5% of children in the United States, and its prevalence has increased during the obesity epidemic. There is no consensus among professional organizations about how frequently blood pressure should be measured in children >3 years old. The purpose of this study was to estimate the frequency of hypertension screening during ambulatory pediatric visits in the United States and to determine patient- and provider-level factors associated with screening during visits specifically for preventive care.
We analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of ambulatory visits by using the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2000 through 2009. In the subset of visits involving patients aged 3 to 18 years, we estimated the frequency of screening during all visits, preventive visits, and preventive visits in which overweight/obesity was diagnosed. We used multivariable logistic regression to identify patient- and provider-level factors associated with screening.
Hypertension screening occurred during 35% of ambulatory pediatric visits, 67% of preventive visits, and 84% of preventive visits in which overweight/obesity was diagnosed. Between 2000 and 2009, the frequency of screening increased in all visits and in preventive visits. Factors independently associated with screening included older age and overweight/obesity diagnosis.
Providers do not measure blood pressure in two-thirds of pediatric visits and one-third of pediatric preventive visits. Providers may understand the importance of screening among overweight/obese children; however, efforts to encourage routine screening, particularly in young children, may be needed.