October 25, 2012
Children can have strokes, and the strokes can recur, usually within a month, according to pediatric researchers. Unfortunately, the strokes often go unrecognized the first time, and the child does not receive treatment before the recurrence.
Pediatric neurologist Rebecca Ichord, MD, director of the Pediatric Stroke Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, reported today on a study of arterial ischemic stroke in children at the International Stroke Conference 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. The conference was sponsored by the American Stroke Association.
An arterial ischemic stroke results from a blockage or constriction in an artery in or leading to the brain.
Ichord and colleagues at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia followed 90 children with a median age of about 6 years old, who were treated for stroke between 2003 and 2009. Twelve patients (13 percent) had a recurrent stroke during the study period, most of them within a month of the first stroke. In six of the 12 children with recurrent strokes, no one diagnosed the initial stroke until a recurrent stroke occurred.
"Strokes don't occur only in the elderly," said Ichord. "They can also affect children as young as infants. Our findings reinforce how important it is to diagnose stroke in children as quickly as possible so that medical caregivers can provide emergency treatment and take measures to prevent recurrence."
Strokes can arise in children for various reasons:
Signs of a stroke in children are the same as in adults:
What is different in children, said Ichord, is that symptoms may be subtle, examination is difficult and children are less able to describe their symptoms.
Emergency treatment for a stroke typically involves:
In the aftermath of a stroke, rehabilitation is critical to promote recovery.
"Because a stroke can recur, we need improved awareness of pediatric stroke among primary healthcare providers, and more research on the best ways to prevent a recurrence after a child suffers a first stroke," added Ichord.
For more information about pediatric stroke care at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, visit the Pediatric Stroke Program Web site.