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Prisma Health Children's Hospital–Midlands

7 Richland Medical Park Dr.
Columbia, SC 29203

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Pediatric Stroke

A stroke is a medical emergency. Strokes happen when blood flow to your brain stops. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. There are two kinds of stroke. The more common kind, called ischemic stroke, is caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. The other kind, called hemorrhagic stroke, is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain. "Mini-strokes" or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), occur when the blood supply to the brain is briefly interrupted.

Most commonly, children have strokes before birth, called perinatal strokes. These are often the cause of cerebral palsy. Children can have strokes from complications of sickle cell anemia, congenital heart defects, or immune disorders; bleeding from aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations; or from blood clotting problems.

Symptoms of stroke are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you or your child have any of these symptoms, you must get to a hospital quickly to begin treatment. Acute stroke therapies try to stop a stroke while it is happening by quickly dissolving the blood clot or by stopping the bleeding. Post-stroke rehabilitation helps individuals overcome disabilities that result from stroke damage. Drug therapy with blood thinners is the most common treatment for stroke.

Prognosis

Although stroke is a disease of the brain, it can affect the entire body. A common disability that results from stroke is complete paralysis on one side of the body, called hemiplegia. A related disability that is not as debilitating as paralysis is one-sided weakness or hemiparesis. Stroke may cause problems with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory. Stroke survivors often have problems understanding or forming speech. A stroke can lead to emotional problems. Stroke patients may have difficulty controlling their emotions or may express inappropriate emotions.

Treatment

Drug therapy with blood thinners is the most common treatment for stroke. Post-stroke rehabilitation helps individuals overcome disabilities that result from stroke damage. Most often children will have hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body) that makes it hard for them to move or functionally use their hand or leg. Many children require a comprehensive, interdisciplinary inpatient rehabilitation program to maximize recovery and function after an acute stroke. Pediatric physiatrists prescribe programs, therapies, medications and equipment to help maximize recovery and function in an inpatient rehabilitation program, and throughout early adulthood. Pediatric physiatrists may treat some children with stroke with botulinum toxin injections if they have significant spasticity.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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