What is a pediatric stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is restricted, either by lack of oxygen, a blood clot or a broken blood vessel. As a result, brain cells begin to die and brain damage can occur.
Many people, when they hear the word “stroke”, associate the medical occurrence with the elderly community. There are many resources available to educate the public on the signs of an adult having a stroke. For a fetus, infant or child, the warning signs may not be as evident. There is the assumption that strokes do not occur to those younger in age and many people (including those in the medical arena) do not recognize the signs and/or assume the physical or intellectual delays to be some other unknown issue. The fact is that strokes can happen to anyone, at any age.
There are two classifications of pediatric stroke, characterized by age. A stroke that occurs between 28 weeks’ gestation (in utero) to 28 postnatal days of life is classified as perinatal stroke, and a stroke occurring after 28 days to 18 years of age is classified as childhood stroke. Perinatal stroke occurs in 1 in every 2800 live births. The risk of stroke from birth through age 19 is approximately 5 per 100,000 children.
Though these are despairing statistics, getting awareness out to the community can prevent a medically challenging future or a loss of life. Knowing the common and subtle signs is key. For perinatal strokes, the most common sign is a seizure. The seizure may cause a sudden rhythmic twitching of the face, arm or leg and/or pauses in breathing along with staring. For older children, there are also signs of seizures and you may notice physical symptoms such as using one hand more than the other before they are 18 months old or signs of weakness on one side of the face and/or body.
Educating the public and recognizing the symptoms is important since Pediatric stroke survivors may have developmental delays such as cerebral palsy (difficulty moving a part of his or her body), seizures, speech or language delays, sensory issues and/or cognitive challenges.
Knowing the signs can save a life and seeking early intervention can make a substantial difference for our little ones. Please share the link to our resource page so more people can become informed.
The Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association (CHASA) is nonprofit organization that provides direct assistance to families through scholarships, grants and a vibrant support community. They also offer numerous resources for pediatric stroke awareness including infographics and informational videos. To learn more, visit this page.