Conference Coverage

Stroke is diagnosed in about one-fifth of children with strokelike symptoms



Approximately one-fifth of pediatric stroke activations are for ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Child Neurology Society. Ischemic stroke and TIA were the second leading diagnoses among the stroke activations examined in the study, after seizure and Todd’s paralysis. “These data, in conjunction with previous studies, highlight the importance of developing protocols for early recognition and evaluation of children who present with strokelike symptoms,” said Tiffany Barkley, DO, a child neurology resident at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and colleagues.

Tiffany Barkley, DO, child neurology resident at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.

Dr. Tiffany Barkley

Dr. Barkley and colleagues conducted their research to describe the demographic and other characteristics of patients who present with strokelike symptoms to their hospital. They undertook a descriptive, retrospective chart review of patients who came to Children’s Mercy Hospital from Sept. 1, 2016, to August 31, 2018, with concern for acute stroke. The investigators examined only patients for whom the Stroke Alert Process and power plan were activated.

“Power plans were created at Children’s Mercy Hospital to streamline and standardize care for children,” said Dr. Barkley. “While stroke order sets tend to be common practice in many adult hospitals, stroke order sets in pediatric hospitals are new.”

In all, 61 stroke activations occurred during the study period. Twelve patients (20%) had a final diagnosis of ischemic stroke or TIA. Among the patients with a final diagnosis of ischemic stroke, the most common presenting symptom was unilateral weakness. Two of these patients were candidates for intervention with mechanical thrombectomy, and none received tissue plasminogen activator. The average age of patients in all activations was 14 years, and the average age of patients with a final diagnosis of ischemic stroke or TIA was 4 years. About 37 (61%) subjects of activations were female, and the most common racial demographic was Caucasian.

Ischemic stroke or TIA was the second most common diagnosis of all activations (12 patients; 20%). Seizure or Todd’s paralysis (14 patients; 23%) was the leading diagnosis. Other common diagnoses included migraine (18%), psychogenic or conversion disorder (15%), oncologic process (3.0%), and complications of meningitis or encephalitis (1.6%). Children who presented with ischemic stroke secondary to Moyamoya disease were classified separately (two patients or 3%). It can be difficult to distinguish between stroke and stroke mimics based on neurologic examination alone, and imaging such as MRI often is needed, said Dr. Barkley. The researchers did not identify any intracranial hemorrhages in this patient population.

These findings are consistent with current reported literature, said the researchers. “Our study is one of the first to look at the demographics of children who present with strokelike symptoms,” said Dr. Barkley. “We hope that our study will not only help identify children who present with symptoms concerning for stroke, but also help us identify children who may be at risk for ischemic stroke before the stroke happens.”

The investigators did not have funding for this study and did not report any disclosures.

SOURCE: Barkley T et al. CNS 2019. Abstract 235.

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