PEDIATRIC STROKE: Stroke affects about 6 in 100,000 children and is the leading cause of death in children in the United States. 60% of pediatric strokes occur in males and strokes in children are different from those in adults; where adults are more likely to have ischemic strokes, children have hemorrhagic strokes just as often as they have ischemic strokes.
RISK FACTORS: Risk factors for strokes in children are different from those in adults. Some common risk factors of stroke in children are diseases of the arteries, infection, acute or chronic head and neck disorders, abnormal blood-clotting, and sickle-cell disease. Over the past 13 years there has been an increase in traditional cardiovascular risk factors for stroke in people between the ages of 15 and 34, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cholesterol-related disorders, tobacco use, and alcohol use. This could help explain why stroke in younger individuals is increasing.
SIGNS: It is important to recognize the signs of a pediatric stroke so the child can receive the proper treatment as quickly as possible. It is especially hard to know when a pediatric stroke has occurred in babies or very young children since they cannot voice concerns themselves. Here is what to look out for:
- Seizures can signal a stroke, especially in newborns.
- Worsening or sudden headaches, although this can be difficult to tell in babies.
- Sudden difficulty speaking or slurring of words, or trouble understanding others’ speech.
- Weakness on one side of the body.
- Sudden loss of vision or abnormal eye movements.
- Sudden loss of balance or difficulty walking. (Source: www.stroke.org)
TREATMENTS AND TPA: Treatment of pediatric stroke depends on what caused the stroke to occur. Treatment with an antithrombotic agent such as aspirin or forms of heparin can help children with blood vessel abnormalities, while others benefit more from surgical treatments like a bypass procedure. However, treatment can be difficult for children who have hemorrhagic stroke because they have a completely different set of problems from the bleeding in the brain. (Source: Dr. Heather Fullerton, www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org) TPA stands for tissue plasminogen activator and is normally given through intravenous injection. TPA is used to treat ischemic stroke and is usually given through a vein on the arm and can help dissolve the blood clot causing the stroke, but is not a safe means of treatment for hemorrhagic stroke and could put them at risk of bleeding in the brain. (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)