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Pediatric Medical Malpractice and Hypertension

Steven E. North, Esq.

A vital sign often overlooked by pediatricians in the course of an ordinary "well exam" is the child's blood pressure. If it is high, but remains undetected and untreated, the result can be permanent with irreversible injuries to the child and lead to serious medical malpractice claims against the pediatrician.

The number of children with hypertension (high blood pressure) is rising dramatically, and according to a recent article in The New York Times, a staggering 75% of children who have pre-hypertension or hypertension go undiagnosed. Often, according to the article, the problem stems from a pediatrician's lack of knowledge about how to identify and manage the condition. This deficit puts children with high blood pressure at risk of dangerous conditions such as cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart) specifically, in the case of hypertension, the left ventricle.

The causal agent in high blood pressure in children may be the unwanted side effect of a treatable underlying condition - kidney disease, lung disease, hormonal abnormalities, and even the use of certain medications. The good news is that such conditions, if timely recognized, can be managed before they cause permanent damage... Although any of these conditions may be secondary to childhood obesity, they may also be a result of unregulated and unmanaged hypertension.

We have repeatedly noted in our columns that electronic medical records can be the savior in many instances. If multiple pediatricians in a practice alternate the care of a child, flagging suspect or out-of-line values will immediately alert the treating or covering physician to be aware of something that needs attention. Thoughtful protocols, too, will uncover abnormal values that could and should be followed.

An avoidable injury, such as an enlargement of the left ventricle, that causes lifetime impairment in a child can, in turn, result in a multi-million dollar award against the negligent treating physician.

Source: New York Times, September 13, 2016, Page D5