Stroke in children: recognition, treatment, and future directions

Semin Pediatr Neurol. 2000 Dec;7(4):309-17. doi: 10.1053/spen.2000.20074.


Childhood stoke is increasingly recognized, but studies remain largely descriptive. Important differences from adult stroke include the following: (1) frequently delayed or missed diagnosis, (2) heterogenous and overlapping risk factors, and (3) developmental differences in the cerebrovascular, neurologic, and coagulation systems. These aspects limit the extrapolation of the results of adult stroke research and present challenges in caring for children with stroke. The incidence of childhood ischemic stroke exceeds 3.3 in 100,000 children per year, more than double the estimates from past decades. The increased incidence reflects, in part, increased survival in previously fatal conditions predisposing to stroke, including congenital heart disease, sickle cell anemia, and leukemia. Risk factors for stroke are recognized in more than 75% of children. Common risk factors include congenital heart disease and sickle cell disease. Progressive arteriopathies, including vasculitis and moyamoya syndrome, are rare in children with stroke; however, transient arteriopathies including post-varicella angiopathy are increasingly recognized. Prothrombotic abnormalities are frequently present but of unclear significance. Adverse outcomes after childhood stroke, including death in 10%, recurrence in 20%, and neurologic deficits in two thirds of survivors could be reduced with available stroke treatments. Aggressive prehospital emergency care and transfer could improve access to hyperacute stroke therapies including tPA. Currently, the diagnosis is delayed by more than 24 hours from onset in most children. As in adults, tPA will likely produce unacceptable rates of intracerebral hemmorrhage unless given within 3 hours of stroke symptom onset. The appropriate choices for in hospital treatment and secondary preventative strategies, including aspirin and anticoagulants, are controversial. Empiric recommendations are published; however, age-appropriate clinical trials are urgently needed. The large multinational networks of investigators necessary for designing and conducting these future trials are now being formed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / therapy
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Child
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / diagnosis*
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / therapy*
  • Survival Rate
  • Thrombolytic Therapy*


  • Anticoagulants