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Pediatric Stroke

Overview

In a healthy child, blood vessels carry oxygen-rich blood to the brain on a continual basis. Pediatric stroke occurs when one of those blood vessels either ruptures or becomes too clogged to allow blood to pass through. The end result is a host of complications, including brain damage, risk for repeat strokes, developmental delays, seizures and death.

  • Types

    • Hemorrhagic (rupture) stroke
    • Ischemic (blockage) stroke
  • Symptoms

    • Facial, arm or leg twitching
    • Preference to use only one hand before 18 months of age
    • Seizures
    • Unexplainable breathing pauses accompanied with staring spells
    • Weakness or lack of movement on one side of the body
  • Prevention

    • Because pediatric stroke is typically caused by congenital factors, there are no proven preventative steps. That said, preventing infection in infants and children may help prevent pediatric stroke.
  • Risk Factors

    • Congenital heart problems
    • Hemophilia
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Trauma
  • Diagnosis

    • Medical history and symptom review. The provider reviews the child’s symptoms, medical history and risk factors.
    • Physical examination. The doctor will examine the child to determine if certain symptoms (weakness on one side of the body, etc.) indicate stroke.
    • Imaging tests. CT, MRI and other imaging methods are required for a definitive pediatric stroke diagnosis.
  • Treatment

    • Medication, such as aspirin or other blood-thinning medication, may be used during an active stroke or to help prevent a future stroke.
    • Catheters (thin, flexible tubes) may be guided to the site of the stroke to repair the damaged artery or remove clots.
    • Surgical removal of part of the skull can relieve pressure caused by brain swelling.
  • Follow-up Care

    • Occupational therapy helps children who suffer stroke relearn how to perform tasks of daily living, such as holding a fork and tying their shoes.
    • Physical therapy works to strengthen weakened muscles and regain balance and coordination.
    • Speech therapists work with children who have had a stroke to help them learn or relearn how to speak clearly.
    • Medication or surgery may be required to overcome complications brought on by the stroke.