Stroke in Children
What is Stroke?
A stroke is a brain injury caused by the interruption of blood flow to any part of the brain. This interruption in blood flow occurs due to a blocked blood vessel or due to bleeding in the brain. Blood flow in the brain is a constant source of oxygen, thus with the interruption in blood flow the cells are deprived of oxygen and they begin to die.
Stroke is more common in adults than children. However, in most cases, a child recovers more easily than an adult because a child’s brain is still developing.
Because a stroke isn’t expected in a child, the diagnosis may be delayed and one should thus meet a pediatric neurologist for early identification of stroke.
Cause for Stroke in Children
Some conditions put children at an increased risk for stroke, these include:
➡️ Lack of oxygen during birth
➡️ Heart ailments in children
➡️ Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease
➡️ Infections of the brain such as meningitis and encephalitis
➡️ Head injury
➡️ Some metabolic disorders
➡️ Blood clotting disorders in children
➡️ Vascular abnormalities
➡️ Birth defects
➡️ Genetic conditions
➡️ High blood pressure
At times problems that a mother has during pregnancy may also cause stroke in the child. These problems can include, high blood pressure, drug abuse, diabetes, infections, or placental problems.
Symptoms of Stroke in children
Since stroke is a serious condition that can cause complications in a child, it is important to identify it at the earliest. Symptoms of stroke in children depend on the age of the child, the cause of the stroke, and the part of the brain affected. The following is what may be seen if the child has a stroke:
➡️ Extreme sleepiness or altered mental status
➡️ Tendency to use only one side of the body
Older children may show more symptoms which include:
➡️ Severe headache accompanied by vomiting most of the times
➡️ Difficulty in vision
➡️ Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
➡️ Dizziness or confusion
➡️ Trouble walking or loss of balance
➡️ Difficulty in speaking
➡️ Seizure or paralysis of one part of the body
What to expect when you visit the doctor?
In order to confirm the diagnosis of stroke in your child, your doctor will first take a detailed history of injuries, infections, and problems related to growth and development in the child. This is followed by a detailed physical examination to look for signs of stroke. Additionally, to confirm the diagnosis some diagnostic tests may be advised. These include brain imaging studies such as CT-scan and MRI of the brain, blood tests to identify any blood-related disorders, ECG and ultrasound of the heart, EEG, pulse oximetry, and at times a lumbar puncture to examine the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord for any abnormalities.
Treatment of stroke
works best when administered at the earliest. Early identification helps prevent any additional damage to the brain, thus, one has to act fast and reach out to a pediatric neurologist at the earliest on the slightest suspicion of stroke!
Intravenous fluids, oxygen, blood transfusion, medicines to treat blood clots and thin blood, and at times surgery for any specific correction may be needed to treat stroke in children.
After an episode of stroke, children may need physical, occupational, or rehabilitation therapy to help them with learning, speech, or vision as affected.
Visit a pediatric neurologist near you and act fast if you suspect a stroke in your child.