May is Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month. Many parents are unaware that strokes can affect newborns, infants, children and adolescents. Stroke affects 25 in 100,000 newborns, 12 in 100,000 children under 18 years of age, and is one of the top ten causes of death in children.
Prompt medical care is essential in order to maximize recovery. Unfortunately, because pediatric stroke often goes unrecognized, misdiagnosis is common, and proper care is delayed.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. There are two types of strokes – ischemic and hemorrhagic – with ischemic stroke being much more common in children and adolescents.
What are the Risks for Pediatric Stroke?
Pediatric stroke can occur at any time but is highest during a child’s first year. Boys and African-American children are at highest risk than other populations for stroke.
Common risks include:
- Birth defects
- Abnormal blood clotting
- Immune disorders
- Mother’s pregnancy-related high blood pressure
How is Pediatric Stroke Diagnosed?
The same diagnosis that is used to detect adult stroke is used to identify pediatric stroke, including blood tests, MRIs, CT or CAT Scans, Ultrasounds and Spinal Taps.
What Treatments are Available for Pediatric Stroke?
Treatment and recovery vary according to each individual child and is determined by age, symptoms, the amount of brain damage that occurred, and on the specific medical conditions.
Because children’s brains are still forming, recovery is faster for children than adults. However, children can experience permanent complications from stroke, such as paralysis, slurred speech, and vision problems that are also common in adults.
More severe, life-long effects from pediatric stroke may include mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy.
PCCSF is proud of its Pediatric Stroke Program at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, which is designed to promptly and accurately diagnose stroke in children. The team includes neurology, neurosurgery, neurointerventional radiology, neuroradiology, hospitalist, emergency department, critical care and pediatric rehabilitation doctors.