Fighting Pediatric Strokes - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Fighting Pediatric Strokes

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CLEVELAND, Ohio ( Ivanhoe Newswire) - For the first time in decades, new reports show that the number of strokes in older men and women are on the decline—on the flip side—more younger people—even kids are suffering strokes. In fact, a study out of the American Stroke Association found strokes have increased 30 percent in boys and girls ages five to 14.

A talented rugby and football player, fifteen year old Jamie Finnerty is no lightweight. He was knocked off his feet a few months ago.

"I felt like the world was spinning a thousand miles an hour," Jamie told Ivanhoe.

A hard hit in a game tore an artery causing a stroke.

"He was vomiting quite a bit and he couldn't open his eyes," Jamie's mom, Stephanie Finnerty told Ivanhoe.

"They thought it was a migraine, so it was 24 hours later they realized he had a stroke," pediatric neurologist Neil Friedman added.

On average, it takes 12 to 24 hours for adults to get to the hospital after the first sign of stroke appears. That time shoots up to 48 to 72 hours for children.

"One of the biggest things we face is childhood stroke often goes unrecognized," Friedman said.

Signs of pediatric stroke can be difficult to diagnose. Underlying heart disease, blood disorders, trauma, even chicken pox can cause a stroke and until recently, there's been very little to help a child who is suffering a stroke.

"For a child that means a lifelong disability," Friedman explained.

Now, studies are underway to use the adult drug TPA in children, but the clot busting drug needs to be given within 3 hours of the onset of the stroke. If it works, it can erase most signs of the stroke, but children metabolize the drug differently than adults.

"The risk is hemorrhage or bleeding in the brain," Friedman said.

Jamie suffered a second stroke while in rehab: both strokes were diagnosed too late for TPA. "I couldn't move my left side at all. I couldn't raise my finger an inch," Jamie said.

But children's' brains have the ability to rewire quicker than adults. Three months later Jamie was up, walking, talking and ready to get back to school and sports.

"It's kinda cool to say. I'm doing all this. I'm getting back to normal," Jamie said.

"He's a fighter and he's very motivated," Freidman added.

The first week of life has the highest incidence of stroke than any other time throughout your life. And most often, it's not recognized until the baby is 5 to 6 months old and begins favoring one side of their body.

RESEARCH SUMMARY

PEDIATRIC STROKE: Stroke affects about 6 in 100,000 children and is the leading cause of death in children in the United States. Sixty percent of pediatric strokes occur in males and strokes in children are different from those in adults; where adults are more likely to have ischemic strokes, children have hemorrhagic strokes just as often as they have ischemic strokes.

RISK FACTORS: Risk factors for strokes in children are different from those in adults. Some common risk factors of stroke in children are diseases of the arteries, infection, acute or chronic head and neck disorders, abnormal blood-clotting, and sickle-cell disease. Over the past 13 years there has been an increase in traditional cardiovascular risk factors for stroke in people between the ages of 15 and 34, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cholesterol-related disorders, tobacco use, and alcohol use. This could help explain why stroke in younger individuals is increasing.

SIGNS: It is important to recognize the signs of a pediatric stroke so the child can receive the proper treatment as quickly as possible. It is especially hard to know when a pediatric stroke has occurred in babies or very young children since they cannot voice concerns themselves. Here is what to look out for:

  • Seizures can signal a stroke, especially in newborns.
  • Worsening or sudden headaches, although this can be difficult to tell in babies.
  • Sudden difficulty speaking or slurring of words, or trouble understanding others' speech.
  • Weakness on one side of the body.
  • Sudden loss of vision or abnormal eye movements.
  • Sudden loss of balance or difficulty walking. (Source: www.stroke.org)  

TREATMENTS AND TPA: Treatment of pediatric stroke depends on what caused the stroke to occur. Treatment with an antithrombotic agent such as aspirin or forms of heparin can help children with blood vessel abnormalities, while others benefit more from surgical treatments like a bypass procedure. However, treatment can be difficult for children who have hemorrhagic stroke because they have a completely different set of problems from the bleeding in the brain. (Source: Dr. Heather Fullerton, www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org) TPA stands for tissue plasminogen activator and is normally given through intravenous injection. TPA is used to treat ischemic stroke and is usually given through a vein on the arm and can help dissolve the blood clot causing the stroke, but is not a safe means of treatment for hemorrhagic stroke and could put them at risk of bleeding in the brain. (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)

 FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Neil Friedman MBCHB
Pediatric Neurologist
Cleveland Clinic
(216) 444-6772

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