Recent declines in adult stroke deaths have been attributed to more people controlling well-known risk factors such as hypertension and cigarette smoking. But these factors are irrelevant in children.
Childhood stroke deaths are poorly understood, says Heather Fullerton, M.D., the studys lead author. You cant turn to the risk factors important for strokes in adults, such as hypertension, a poor diet or diabetes, and apply them to kids.
Although childhood strokes are far less common than adult strokes, they, too, can kill or leave survivors disabled. Only a few small studies have examined childhood stroke deaths, according to Fullerton, a child neurology fellow at the University of California San Francisco. Known risk factors for childhood hemorrhagic strokes (caused by bleeding) include brain tumors or vascular malformations, hemophilia, cancer and sickle cell disease. Childhood ischemic strokes (caused by blockages) have also been linked to sickle cell disease and cancer. Risk factors that contribute to ischemic strokes alone include meningitis, encephalitis, congenital heart disease and certain blood clotting disorders.
In this study, researchers analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics mortality database, which compiles death certificate data across the country. They examined childhood stroke deaths in people age 20 and under who died from a stroke, as specified on death certificates, between 1979-98. They found an average of 244 deaths per year due to childhood stroke in the United States.
Overall, the study found stroke deaths declined by 58 percent in the 20-year period. However, the
Contact: Bridgette McNeill or Carole Bullock
American Heart Association