In newborn babies, high blood pressure is often caused by a blood clot in a kidney blood vessel, a complication of having an umbilical catheter.
Other causes of high blood pressure in infants may include:
Exposure to illegal drugs such as cocaine
Inherited conditions (problems that run in families)
Blood pressure rises as the baby grows. The average blood pressure in a newborn is 64/41. The average blood pressure in a child ages 1 month - 2 years is 95/58. Some variations in these numbers are normal and are not cause for concern.
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:
Failure to grow and gain weight
Frequent urinary tract infections
Pale skin (pallor)
Symptoms may appear if the baby has very high blood pressure. These symptoms include:
Exams and Tests
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:
A special type of x-ray that uses a dye to look at blood vessels (angiography)
Laboratory tests, including blood and urine tests
X-rays of the chest or abdomen
Ultrasounds, including an ultrasound of the working heart (echocardiogram) and of the kidneys
Using magnets to create images of the heart and blood vessels (MRI)
The treatment depends on the cause of high blood pressure in the infant. Treatment can include:
Surgery (including transplantation surgery or repair of the coarctation)
How well the baby does depends on the cause of high blood pressure.
Other factors that may affect how well the baby with high blood pressure does include:
The presence of other health problems in the baby
Whether any damage (such as kidney damage) has occurred as a result of the high blood pressure
Heart or kidney failure
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if your baby:
Fails to grow and gain weight
Has bluish skin
Has frequent urinary tract infections
Take your baby to the emergency department if your baby:
Is not responding
Is vomiting constantly
There is no way to prevent conditions that cause high blood pressure in infants. However, there are some things you can do that may reduce the baby's risk of developing such problems.
Some causes of high blood pressure run in families. Talk to your health care provider before you get pregnant if you have a family history of:
Congenital heart disease
High blood pressure
If you have any medical condition and take medicines for it, talk to your health care provider before becoming pregnant. Exposure to certain drugs in the womb may increase your baby's risk of developing problems that can lead to high blood pressure.
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;chap 114:555.
Beard L, Neonatology. In: Engorn B, Flerlage J, eds. Johns Hopkins: The Harriet Lane Handbook: A Manual for Pediatric House Officers. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 18.
Lande MB. Systemic hypertension. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 439.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.