Delays in diagnosing childhood stroke

Published date
Thursday, 23 October, 2014

Published: Thursday 23 October 2014

Childhood stroke affects up to 13 out of every 100,000 children a year in the UK.  

Stroke, and conditions that mimic stroke, cause severe illness in children and require prompt diagnosis and treatment.

That's why we funded Dr Finbar O'Callaghan to investigate current delays in diagnosing childhood stroke, with the findings published today in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The results of the study suggest that diagnosis of arterial ischaemic stroke (AIS) in children is delayed at every stage of healthcare assessment. 

AIS happens when the blood flow to the brain is blocked. This could be because an artery becomes too narrow or because a blood clot forms, blocking the supply of blood to a part of the brain.

The researchers found that the longest delays were caused by the use of CT (computed tomography) scanning as the first brain imaging test, and which is not effective for diagnosing AIS. 

However, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan can be used to diagnose AIS. The researchers suggest this should be the first brain imaging test used in any suspected case of childhood AIS, and which could significantly reduce delays and improve these patients' outcomes.

We hope this important study will be used to help inform best practice when diagnosing childhood stroke and improve the lives of those who have childhood stroke in the future.

In collaboration with the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, the Stroke Association also runs the Childhood Stroke Project to support families affected by childhood stroke.

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