Saturday, August 02, 2008

Strokes and seizures in children

Stroke is primarily a concern of older adults. But cases of childhood stroke are growing more common, the American Heart Association said Thursday as it released its first-ever guidelines for how to recognize and treat stroke in infants and children.

It’s among the top 10 causes of death for children.

Still, “most people, including physicians, don’t think that strokes occur in children,” said Dr. Jose Biller, part of the 11-member panel of doctors who drafted the guidelines.

Biller, the chief of neurology for Loyola University’s medical school, said doctors’ failure to recognize stroke in young patients can lead to delayed treatment, which increases the chances of disability or death.

The guidelines — published in the journal Stroke — detail several conditions, including sickle cell anemia, congenital heart disease and infections such as meningitis and chicken pox, that are possible risk factors for stroke in children.

Also, the symptoms of stroke in infants and children are different — and usually more subtle — than in adults. In newborns, who are more prone to stroke than older children, “the first symptoms . . . are often seizures that involve only one arm or one leg,” said Dr. E. Steven Roach, chair of the heart association panel.

The clot-busting drug known as tPA is the gold standard for stroke treatment in adults. But the panel doesn’t recommend it for kids outside of a clinical trial setting, because most of the research done on tPA involved adults, not children, Biller said.

And while it’s difficult to prevent an initial stroke, because that’s usually the first sign of trouble, Roach said it’s important that doctors “promptly recognize and diagnose a stroke because treating the cause reduces the likelihood of additional strokes.”

Ten-year-old Sideria Hendricks, who has sickle cell anemia, had her first stroke when she was 7. After a second one, the Forest Park girl began receiving regular blood transfusions to prevent further episodes.

Her mom, Vonetta Wright, said she “really wasn’t aware” a child could have a stroke.
“You expect it to happen to a grownup, not a child,” she said. “It’s terrifying.”

childhood stroke awareness wrote:

My name is Dawn Marie Perkins and my son had a stroke in utero. I would like to commend the ASA for it's very much needed recognition of pediatric stroke. It is my hope that this is just the beginning in getting what our children need, answers about causes, efficacy of treatments and implementation of preventative measures. I would also like to let families affected by pediatric stroke know about some wonderful resources:,, and

CHASA was founded by a mom of an infant stroke survivor when there was literally no support or information out there. CHASA and it’s sponsored sites have been a lifeline for my family as well as families worldwide. CHASA also has set up an Infant & Childhood Stroke Research Fund and distributes awards to researchers dedicated to Infant & Childhood Stroke.

CHASA founded Childhood Stroke Awareness Day, which occurs on the first Saturday in May of each year. Three years ago and continuing, this day was recognized by the United States Senate.
I encourage families to also visit my awareness campaign site at to learn more ways to help raise awareness in their own communities.

I feature a childhood stroke survivor each month and tell their story. We also have a photo gallery of infant & childhood stroke survivors.Please remember that infants have strokes, kids have strokes and even unborn babies have strokes…!!!!!!Dawn Marie PerkinsChildhood Stroke Awareness Campaign Coordinator


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