Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size
A
A
A

New Stroke Guidelines for Children

Stroke Is Rare in Children, but Greatest Risk Is in First Two Months of Life
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Childrens Stroke Guidelines

July 17, 2008 -- Strokes don't only occur in older adults -- children can have them too. Because stroke can lead to brain damage and death, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has for the first time released guidelines on diagnosing and treating stroke in children.

"Stroke in children is uncommon but not as rare as we used to think," E. Steve Roach, MD, chair of the statement writing group and professor of pediatric neurology at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, says in a news release. About 10 out of every 100,000 children have a stroke each year. The risk is greatest during the first two months of life.

Children tend to have a different kind of stroke than adults. About 80% of adult stroke victims have an ischemic stroke, in which a blockage in a blood vessel cuts off blood supply to the brain. Only about 55% of strokes in children are ischemic. The rest are hemorrhagic, meaning there is bleeding in the brain.

Risks for stroke also differ between children and adults. Most adults with stroke have a history of risk factors such as high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, or artery disease, which they can work to control. In children the most common causes are sickle cell disease and heart disease. Often a stroke is the first warning sign of these diseases. "That's why it's critical to promptly recognize and diagnose a stroke, because treating the cause reduces the likelihood of additional strokes," Roach says.

The first step in diagnosis is to identify the symptoms, which in children can be atypical. "In newborns, the first symptom is often seizures of an arm or leg," Roach says. "Seizure is a much less common stroke symptom in adults."

Doctors have gotten much better at diagnosing stroke in children, thanks to modern imaging technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and computed tomography (CT) scans. Each test has its pros and cons, and which one doctors use will depend on the child's situation, the authors write in the guidelines, which were published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Once a child has been diagnosed, treatment is aimed at preventing both neurological damage and future strokes.

Today on WebMD

preschool age girl sitting at desk
Article
look at my hand
Slideshow
 
woman with cleaning products
Slideshow
young boy with fever
Article
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

WebMD Special Sections