Childhood stroke: it’s more common that you think

November 4, 2009 by  

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baby silhouetteStroke is something that we normally do not associate with children, much less infants. Unfortunately, children do suffer from strokes that might go unnoticed or undiagnosed.

Previous estimates of incidence of stroke among American children (0.54 to 1.2 cases per 100,000) were underestimations. A new study reports that the frequency is actually two to four more than previously reported. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco calculated from re-examination of hospital records and imaging data the actual incidence in the US to be 2.4 cases per 100,000. Another report from UK researchers give estimates that range from .3 per 100,000 to 13.0 per 100,000.

So why the underestimation?

Because health professionals still cannot easily accept the fact that stroke does occur in children.

In fact, everybody can suffer from stroke regardless of age. This ABC report describes a case of a baby who had stroke while still in the uterus. This event affected the boy’s motoric development. A neurologist performed a brain scan when the boy was 19 months old and arrived at a diagnosis: cerebral palsy due to a stroke in utero.

Aside from problems with diagnosis, health professionals also have to deal with the fact that most stroke treatments are only meant for adults.

In another case, a 15-year old presented with stroke symptoms. The hospital staff took the risk and treated with the clot buster drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). He recovered. But can tPA be used in younger kids, even infants? Nobody knows.

So what happens to kids who suffer from stroke? They suffer from the following:

  • Neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy
  • Developmental disorders, including motoric and speech problems.
  • Seizures
  • Subsequent strokes

Childhood stroke is a neglected health problem even though research indicates that it is among the top ten causes of children mortality. Like in many disorders, the earlier a stroke is a diagnosed in children, the better are their chances to recover fully and live normal lives. The recent study American hopes to increase awareness and vigilance about stroke among children.

Photo credit: stick.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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