Objective. Strokes occur rarely in children, and the causes are different from those in adults. Frequently, more than 1 cause is found. The consequences are lifelong significant disability in a majority of cases. Children who are younger than 18 years have not been included in therapeutic trials of thrombolytic or neuroprotective agents. We evaluated whether children who receive a diagnosis of stroke meet a major inclusion criterion for such trials, namely time to diagnosis of <3 to 6 hours.
Methods. Prospective documentation and retrospective chart review was conducted of children who were 0 to 18 years and carried a diagnosis of stroke during the last 2 years in the hospital database, including children who presented with either ischemic or hemorrhagic strokes.
Results. Forty-seven events were encountered in 41 children. Twelve neonates with stroke, diagnosed in the neonatal period, were excluded from the subsequent analysis. In the remaining 29 children, the mean age at presentation was 8.67 years. Accurate time records were available in 24 children. In this group, 28 events were recorded. Time from clinical onset to first medical contact averaged 28.5 hours, and the time to diagnosis of stroke averaged 35.7 hours. We subsequently separated between children with ischemic (21 documented events) and hemorrhagic strokes (7 documented events), because the presentation and the intervention options are different.
Conclusions. Stroke in children is rarely diagnosed in the time frame of 3 to 6 hours. Given the causes and outcome of stroke in children, this age group might benefit from thrombolysis and from neuroprotective therapy, yet the long delay in diagnosis in this age group excludes most cases from being considered for such treatments. This situation should encourage attempts to increase public and professional awareness of stroke in children and of the potential value of early diagnosis and treatment, preferably by broadening current educational efforts to all age groups.