The prevalence of hypertension is increasing in children, and may persist into adulthood. This systematic review was conducted for the US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation on the effectiveness of screening asymptomatic children and adolescents for hypertension in order to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Eligible studies were identified from Medline and the Cochrane Library (through July 2012). We included trials and controlled observational studies in asymptomatic children and adolescents on the effectiveness and harms of screening and treatment, as well as accuracy of blood pressure measurement. One author extracted study characteristics and results, which were checked for accuracy by a second author.
No studies evaluated the effects of screening for hypertension on health outcomes. Two studies of screening tests for elevated blood pressure reported moderate sensitivities (0.65, 0.72) and specificities (0.75, 0.92). Sensitivities and specificities of child hypertension for the later presence of adult hypertension (7 studies) were wide ranging (0–0.63 and 0.77–1.0, respectively), and associations between child hypertension and carotid intima media thickening and proteinuria in young adults (3 studies) were inconsistent. Seven studies reported that drug interventions effectively lowered blood pressure in adolescents over short follow-up periods. No serious treatment-related adverse effects were reported.
There is no direct evidence that screening for hypertension in children and adolescents reduces adverse cardiovascular outcomes in adults. Additional studies are needed to improve diagnosis and risk stratification of children with elevated blood pressure and to quantify risks and benefits of interventions.