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April 27, 2020
Many people may think of stroke as a disease affecting older adults, but infants and children are also at risk. In fact, the American Heart Association reports that stroke affects six out of every 100,000 children aged 0-15.
A stroke is an injury to the brain caused by reduced or blocked blood flow in one of the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Sometimes a stroke can occur when there is a clot in the arteries of the brain or neck. When blood doesn’t flow properly to the brain, it affects parts of the body in different ways.
The acronym “F.A.S.T.” is a quick way to remember signs of a stroke:
F – face drooping
A – arm weakness
S – speech difficulty
T – time to call 911
Perinatal Stroke (Birth – less than 1 month old)
Stroke in newborns is the most common form of pediatric stroke, occurring around the time of birth. Expectant mothers with preeclampsia, a history of infertility or an infection in the fluid surrounding the baby may be at a higher risk of having a baby affected by stroke. Families and health care providers should watch for twitching or decreased movement in one side of the body or pauses in breathing (apnea).
Stroke in Children (1 month – less than 18 years old)
Stroke in older children may be less common than perinatal strokes, though there are certain groups of children that are at a higher risk. Congenital heart disease, some types of cancer, autoimmune disorders, sickle cell, blood disorders and infections affecting the brain or other organs are all risk factors of pediatric stroke.
Pediatric stroke is a complex disease. It’s important to choose a physician or team with extensive experience in treating stroke to help prevent possible short-term and long-term complications.
Some complications could include:
Neurological effects include:
Early diagnosis is key in treating pediatric stroke, and treatment could include surgery or medication. Optimal treatment would involve a highly experienced team of experts specializing in stroke, which includes a pediatric stroke neurologist, pediatric stroke hematologist and many other specialists.
In order to better understand the best treatment for the various types of stroke in children, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida and the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, Maryland, established a collaborative stroke program to help children receive the highest quality care at each location. They also work together and with other experts around the world to study new ways to treat stroke patients to achieve the best possible outcomes. For more information, visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stroke.