Pediatric Stroke


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.


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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.