There are two major types of strokes:
- Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by bleeding.
- Ischemic strokes are caused by lack of blood flow, oxygen and/or or nutrients to the brain, often triggered by a clot.
In children, strokes can be caused by abnormalities in blood vessels in the brain or neck, excess clotting, sickle cell disease and certain heart or metabolic conditions. Often, however, the cause of strokes in children remains unclear. About only 2-6 out of every 100,000 children in the U.S. will suffer a stroke each year.
- Cerebral Sinovenous Thrombosis (CSVT) is caused when a blood clot forms in a vein near the brain.
Oftentimes, the cause of a child’s stroke is not clear. The leading cause of stroke includes:
- Heart disease
- Ear or sinus infections that do not heal
- Blood clotting disorders
- Serious infections
- Accidents involving the head or neck region
- Sickle cell anemia
- Narrowing or damaged blood vessels in the brain or neck
- Moyamoya disease
We are trying to learn more about why children have strokes through the research done at our clinics.
F = Face. Ask the person to smile. Does the side of the face droop or is their smile crooked?
A = Arms. Ask the person to lift both of their arms in the air. Does one arm drift downward, or is one arm more difficult to lift than the other?
S = Speech. Ask the person to speak. Are the words slurred? Can he/she repeat the sentence correctly?
T = Time. Call 911 or get to the hospital fast to begin treatment as soon as possible.
Sometimes it is difficult to know if a newborn or child is having a stroke because the symptoms are not as visible and because they are not able to communicate what is happening to them. Some additional stroke symptoms include:
- Seizures or body “ticks”
- Extreme sleepiness
- Sudden loss of vision or abnormal eye movement
- Loss of balance or difficulty walking
- Unexplained change in level of consciousness
Strokes can be treated in several ways and will depend on the type and location of the stroke. One way is through antithrombotic therapy, which is medication that helps prevent blood clots from forming or growing. Surgery is less common, but can be done to relieve pressure in the brain. Thrombolysis, or tPA, is also uncommon in children. This is a medication that is injected into the clot to dissolve it. tPA must be done within hours of stroke symptoms, and is not typically used in small children. Your doctor will discuss the best treatment option for your child with you.
While children often have a positive recovery from stroke, there is no cure. Your child’s recovery will depend on the size and location of the stroke. Your doctor will consult with several other professionals to improve your child’s recovery including Neuropsychologists, Hematologists, Rehabilitation, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, and others they feel might help your child’s recovery.