When most people think of strokes, they think of adults. But your child can also be at risk of developing a stroke. Although strokes are less common in children, they can happen in children at any age. They may even happen before your child is born. Pediatric stroke affects one in every 4,000 newborns and an additional 2,000 older children each year, according to John Hopkins Medicine.
Although strokes can affect older children as well, most of them are caused by another condition that stops the flow of blood to the brain or causes bleeding in the brain.
Types of pediatric stroke
The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh UPMC notes six types of strokes that are most common in children:
- Perinatal (newborn) stroke — Strokes in newborns are common and often go unnoticed and undiagnosed.
- Hemorrhagic stroke — This stroke occurs when a blood vessel in or near the brain ruptures, causing bleeding in the brain.
- Ischemic stroke — An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is diminished, usually because of a clot, called a thrombus, in one of the blood vessels in the brain. There are two types of ischemic stroke that occur in children, especially newborns: sinovenous thrombosis and arterial ischemic stroke.
- Sinovenous thrombosis stroke — This stroke occurs when there is a clot in one of the veins in the brain.
- Arterial ischemic stroke — This stroke occurs when there is a clot in an artery in the brain.
- Cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) — CVT is a stroke that results from thrombosis (a blood clot) in the dural venous sinuses, which drain blood from the brain.
What causes pediatric strokes?
Ischemic strokes are caused by the following:
- lack of oxygen during birth
- a heart defect the baby is born with
- blood disorders such as sickle cell disease, which destroys blood cells and blocks blood vessels
- injury to an artery (a blood vessel that brings oxygen) in the brain
- genetic disorders like Moyamoya, a rare disease that affects arteries in the brain
- an infection, such as meningitis or chickenpox
Newborns can develop an ischemic stroke due to the following pregnancy complications:
- preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy that can cause swelling in the hands, feet, and legs)
- premature rupture of the membranes (when a woman’s water breaks more than 24 hours before labor starts)
- drug abuse
- placenta problems that decrease the baby’s oxygen supply, such as placental abruption
Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by the following: