Pediatric Stroke | Causes and Symptoms | MedStar Health

Our Comprehensive Stroke Center in the Washington, D.C., area provides specialized pediatric stroke care. Our physicians are nationally renowned for their expertise.

Our providers

Pediatrics specialist examining girl child

Expert pediatric care

Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our pediatricians.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is a stroke, and how common are they for children?

    A stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease that interrupts the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Strokes may be ischemic (caused by a blocked blood vessel) or hemorrhagic (caused by a burst blood vessel).

    Strokes are often mistakenly thought of as a problem that affects only the elderly. Although strokes are more common in adults, they can also affect infants and children. As many as one in 1,600 infants experience a stroke at birth each year, as do as many as 13 in 100,000 older children.

  • What are the risk factors for a pediatric stroke?

    Risk for childhood stroke can be increased due to maternal factors, congenital heart defects, infections, immune disorders, blood disorders, or trauma (for example, a head injury).

  • What are the signs and symptoms of a pediatric stroke?

    Because it is critical that children who have experienced a stroke receive medical care as quickly as possible, it is important to know the signs. For infants, these signs include seizures (marked by sudden stiffness or the whole body or part of the body, twitching or spasms, or non-responsiveness) or weakness on one side of the body.

    Signs of a stroke in older children include headaches; weakness or numbness on one side of the body; drooping of one side of the face; or changes to speech, vision, or movement.

  • How are pediatric strokes assessed and treated?

    If you think your child is having a stroke, you should get them to the Emergency Department without delay. Early intervention from a specialized stroke team can help minimize injury to the brain and prevent complications or permanent disability.

    At the hospital, your child will receive imaging tests — for example, CT scans, MRIs, or angiograms — to detect any bleeding in the brain. An echocardiogram may be used to examine the structure of your child’s heart. Neurological tests and other exams may also be conducted.

    If needed, your child may be given anticoagulant medication or aspirin to prevent blood clots. Some children will need to remain on those medications long-term. Depending on the cause and severity of the stroke, other treatments may also be needed.

    Children who have had a stroke require medical monitoring and, often, rehabilitation services like physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy. MedStar Georgetown offers a full spectrum of follow-up care. With quality medical care, many children make a full recovery from a stroke.