Pediatric stroke refers to stroke in children between 29 days and 18 years of age. Pediatric stroke may be ischemic, in which a blood clot stops blood and oxygen from reaching the brain, or hemorrhagic, which involves a blood vessel rupturing.
Due to a lack of awareness, people often miss the signs of stroke in children.
This article looks at symptoms of pediatric stroke and the steps a parent or caregiver should take upon noticing them. It also looks at types of pediatric stroke, their causes and risk factors, how they are diagnosed and treated, and a person’s outlook.
Lastly, the article examines the potential complications and prevention methods.
Symptoms of a pediatric stroke may present differently than those of a stroke in adults. Symptoms may also present differently in older children than in newborns and infants.
- facial drooping
- arm weakness
- speech difficulty
- sudden and severe headache, alongside sleepiness and vomiting
- sudden numbness and weakness on one side of the body
- sudden confusion
- difficulty understanding others or speaking
- difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
- seizures, typically on one side of the body
In children and teenagers
In children and teenagers,
- problems speaking
- problems understanding speech
- vision problems
- hearing problems
- paralysis or weakness in a specific area
- loss of muscle control or muscle tone
- involuntary movements
- abnormal sensations
- drooping on one side of the face
- loss of coordination
- changes in mood and behavior
- nausea and vomiting
- cardiopulmonary dysfunction, which refers to disorders of the heart and lungs
In newborns and infants
Other common symptoms include:
- poor feeding
- nausea and vomiting
- cardiopulmonary dysfunction
If someone notices the symptoms of a stroke in an infant or child, it is important to seek emergency medical attention as quickly as possible.
Treatments for stroke are
Pediatric stroke falls into two categories — ischemic or hemorrhagic.
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot obstructs a vessel that supplies blood to the brain. Usually, this is because fatty deposits that line the vessel walls, called atherosclerosis, cause an obstruction.
A blood clot that doctors refer to as a thrombus may develop in the fatty plaque inside a blood vessel.
A blood clot called a cerebral embolism may also form at another location in the circulatory system. Part of the clot may break away and travel to vessels in the brain that are too small for it to pass through.
Hemorrhagic strokes can occur within the brain, called intracerebral, or on the surface of the brain, called subarachnoid hemorrhagic.
Doctors associate several conditions with pediatric stroke. These include:
- congenital heart problems, such as infections or abnormal valves
- vasculopathy, which are diseases that affect blood vessels
- coagulopathies, or bleeding disorders in which the blood’s ability to form clots is impaired
- sickle cell disease
- cardiac disease
- neck injury or head trauma
- renal, or kidney, diseases
- metabolic disorders
- autoimmune diseases
To diagnose pediatric stroke, a doctor will typically review a child’s symptoms and medical history and perform a physical examination. They will then perform tests to help them make a diagnosis.
- blood tests
- ultrasound scan to search for causes of blood clotting or embolism near the heart
- electrocardiogram (ECG) to check the heart’s rhythm and functioning
- electroencephalogram (EEG) to search for signs a child may have had a seizure
- MRI scan to provide imaging of the brain
- CT scan for further brain and blood vessel imaging
The treatment for pediatric stroke may differ depending on a variety of factors, such as the age of the child, the type of stroke, the cause of the stroke, the area of the brain affected, and the extent of the damage.
- clot-dissolving medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which doctors administer intravenously
- thrombectomy, which is a minimally invasive procedure where doctors remove the clot from the blood vessel
- treatment for any related seizures, infection, fever, or other symptoms
- rehabilitation, such as speech therapy and occupational or physical therapy
- close monitoring
The outlook varies for children with stroke. Prompt medical treatment and rehabilitation can result in better outcomes, and younger people
Depending on the areas of the brain the stroke affects, some children may experience problems related to motor function, cognition, development, or seizures.
A stroke may result in complications, which can
- cognitive and learning difficulties
- neurological problems
- problems with vision
- physical and motor impairment
- weakness or paralysis in an area of the body
- communication difficulties
- behavioral problems
- psychological difficulties
The likelihood of a child having a stroke, or stroke recurrence, may depend on the underlying causes of the stroke. To help prevent stroke, a person can ensure that the child is:
- taking blood-thinning, seizure control, and other medications as prescribed by a doctor
- receiving treatment for underlying causes, such as cardiac problems or infection
- exercising and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in sodium
- following up with the doctor regularly
- staying aware of the risks of stroke as they age
Stroke may occur at any age and can affect children. Pediatric strokes may be ischemic or hemorrhagic and can present differently than they do in adults.
In children and teenagers, the symptoms may be similar to those of adults and can involve weakness, numbness, or paralysis in one side of the body, as well as confusion, difficulty speaking, or other focal deficits. In newborn babies and infants, seizures are the most common symptom of stroke.
Pediatric strokes are often related to cardiac issues, such as infections or diseases that affect the heart. However, doctors associate many other diseases and disorders with pediatric stroke.
The treatment of pediatric stroke may differ depending on the underlying causes, the child’s age, the area of the brain the stroke affects, and the extent of the damage.
Some children may experience long-term effects of stroke, which can include cognitive difficulties, developmental delays, and physical and motor impairment. Prompt treatment can improve a child’s outcome.