Infant and Childhood Stroke Facts
What is a stroke?
What causes a stroke
in an infant or child?
Types of strokes: ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke
Timing of strokes:  perinatal stroke, in utero stroke, fetal stroke, infant stroke, prenatal stroke, pediatric stroke
Incidence of stroke in infants and children

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 2008 Infant and Childhood Stroke Fact Sheet

What is a stroke?
A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA),  occurs when the blood supply to any part of the brain is interrupted, resulting in tissue death and loss of brain function.  If blood flow is interrupted for longer than a few seconds, brain cells can die, causing permanent damage.  

What causes a stroke in an infant or child?
A stroke may be caused by a blood clot that forms in the brain (a thrombus) or a blood clot, piece of plaque, or other material that travels to the brain from another location (an embolism). The resulting stroke-related symptoms depend on the area of the brain affected, the extent of the damage, and the cause of the stroke. Bleeding (hemorrhage) within the brain can, on rare occasions, cause symptoms that mimic stroke. 

Types of strokes:  Ischemic Stroke, Hemorrhagic Stroke 

  • Strokes are classified as either ischemic or hemorrhagic. 

  • In children, ischemic stroke is more common than hemorrhagic stroke.  

  • An arterial ischemic stroke is due to a blockage of the inflow of arterial blood.  

  • A hemorrhagic stroke ocurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks or ruptures.

Timing of Strokes 

  • Before 28 days of age:  Perinatal stroke encompasses cerebrovascular events that occur between the 28 weeks of gestation and one month following birth. A stroke that occurs before birth may also be called an in-utero stroke or fetal stroke.  Another term often used in this group is prenatal stroke.  Prenatal stroke occurs in the period before birth  Stroke occurs more frequently in the perinatal and prenatal age group than in older children.

  • Childhood stroke occurs between 1 month and 18 years of age. 

Incidence of Stroke

  • Arterial ischemic stroke around the time of birth is recognized in one in 4000 full-term infants (2).  

  • Arterial ischemic stroke which occurs in childhood ranges from 0.6 to 7.9 per 100,000 children (1).

  • The incidence of hemorrhagic stroke in children is estimated at 1.5 to 5.1 per 100,000 children per year.

NINDS Stroke Information (all ages)

(1) Cerebrovascular Disorders in Children, John Kylan Lynch, DO, Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports 2004, 4:129-138.
(2) Stroke in newborn infants., Nelson, KB, Lynch, JK. Lancet Neurology, 2004, Mar;3(3):150-8.

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