Screening for Hypertension in Children and Adolescents: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

JAMA. 2020 Nov 10;324(18):1884-1895. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.11119.


Importance: Childhood hypertension can result in adverse outcomes during adulthood; identifying and treating primary and secondary childhood hypertension may reduce such risks.

Objective: To update the evidence on screening and treatment of hypertension in childhood and adolescence for the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Data sources: PubMed, Cochrane Library, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, EMBASE, and trial registries through September 3, 2019; bibliographies from retrieved articles, experts, and surveillance of the literature through October 6, 2020.

Study selection: Fair- or good-quality English-language studies evaluating diagnostic accuracy of blood pressure screening; cohort studies assessing the association of hypertension in childhood and adolescence with blood pressure or other intermediate outcomes in adulthood; randomized clinical trials (RCTs) or meta-analyses of pharmacological and lifestyle interventions.

Data extraction and synthesis: Two reviewers independently assessed titles/abstracts and full-text articles, extracted data, and assessed study quality; the evidence was synthesized qualitatively.

Main outcomes and measures: Sensitivity, specificity, and measures of association between childhood and adulthood blood pressure; reduction of childhood blood pressure; adverse effects of treatments.

Results: Forty-two studies from 43 publications were included (N>12 400). No studies evaluated the benefits or harms of screening and the effect of treating childhood hypertension on outcomes in adulthood. One study reported a sensitivity of 0.82 and a specificity of 0.70 for 2 office-based blood pressure measurements. Twenty observational studies suggested a significant association between childhood hypertension and abnormal blood pressure in adulthood (odds ratios, 1.1-4.5; risk ratios, 1.45-3.60; hazard ratios, 2.8-3.2). Thirteen placebo-controlled RCTs and 1 meta-analysis assessed reductions in systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure from pharmacological treatments. Pooled reductions of SBP were -4.38 mm Hg (95% CI, -7.27 to -2.16) for angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and -3.07 mm Hg (95% CI, -4.99 to -1.44) for angiotensin receptor blockers. Candesartan reduced SBP by -6.56 mm Hg (P < .001; n = 240). β-Blockers, calcium channel blockers, and mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists did not achieve significant reductions over 2 to 4 weeks. SBP was significantly reduced by exercise over 8 months (-4.9 mm Hg, P ≤ .05; n = 69), by dietary approaches to stop hypertension over 3 months (-2.2 mm Hg, P < .01; n = 57), and by a combination of drug treatment and lifestyle interventions over 6 months (-7.6 mm Hg; P < .001; n = 95). Low-salt diet did not achieve reductions of blood pressure.

Conclusions and relevance: Observational studies indicate an association between hypertension in childhood and hypertension in adulthood. However, the evidence is inconclusive whether the diagnostic accuracy of blood pressure measurements is adequate for screening asymptomatic children and adolescents in primary care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antihypertensive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Blood Pressure Determination / instrumentation
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diagnosis*
  • Hypertension / therapy
  • Male
  • Mass Screening* / adverse effects
  • Mass Screening* / psychology
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Preventive Health Services
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Antihypertensive Agents