An infant pediatric stroke malpractice victim lies in a hospital incubator.

Many pediatric strokes occur during birth or before a child reaches 2 years old.

In order to properly treat young patients and avoid medical malpractice, doctors must be knowledgeable about pediatric strokes. Any of the following may result in pediatric stroke medical malpractice:

  • Failure to know and recognize pediatric stroke risk factors and causes of pediatric strokes
  • Failure to know and recognize the symptoms of pediatric stroke
  • Failure to diagnose or a delay in diagnosing pediatric stroke
  • Failure to treat or a delay in treating pediatic stroke

Common Risk Factors for Stroke in Children

About 1 in every 4,000 children has a stroke at some point during birth. The risk of stroke from birth through age 18 is almost 11 in 100,000 children per year. Infant strokes (children under 2) are slightly more common than strokes in children over the age of 2.   Boys and African-American children are at a higher risk for stroke than other groups.

High blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, and hardening of the arteries are common causes of strokes in adults.  These are rare causes of pediatric strokes.  Common risk factors for stroke in children include:

  • Congenital heart defects
  • Sickle-cell disease
  • Immune disorders
  • Diseases of the arteries
  • Abnormal blood clotting
  • Head or neck trauma
  • Maternal history of infertility
  • Maternal infection in the fluid surrounding an unborn baby
  • Premature rupture of membrane during pregnancy
  • Pregnancy related high blood pressure in the mother

Types of Pediatric Strokes

There are general two types of strokes that children can suffer.  Ischemic strokes occur when blood to the brain is blocked by an obstruction.  These are sometimes called “dry strokes” because they result from a lack of blood flow to the brain.  Hemorrhagic strokes occur when bleeding occurs in the brain.  These are sometimes called “wet strokes” or “bleeding strokes” because they result in too much blood in the brain.  Either type of pediatric stroke is an emergency and can result in permanent injury or death if the diagnosis or treatment is delayed.

Side-by-side of pediatric ischemic stroke and pediatric hemorrhagic stroke caused by medical malpractice.

Pediatric ischemic or “dry” strokes occur when blood flow to the brain becomes blocked. Hemorrhagic strokes occur in children when bleeding occurs within the brain. Both types of pediatric strokes can be caused by medical malpractice.

What Causes Ischemic (Dry) Strokes in Children?

Doctors must quickly find the cause of a stroke in order to provide the right treatment and prevent more injury. Doctors can find a cause of strokes in about two-thirds of cases.

A common cause of ischemic strokes is that a blood clot forms in the heart and travels to the brain. This can be caused by congenital heart problems like abnormal valves or infections. In these cases children may need surgery or antibiotics.

Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that is associated with ischemic stroke. In sickle cell disease, the blood cell can’t carry oxygen to the brain, and blood vessels leading to the brain may have narrowed or closed. About 10 percent of children with sickle cell disease suffer a stroke. Children with sickle cell disease have a high risk of repeat strokes, but this can be reduced by blood transfusion.

Finally, ischemic strokes can be caused by trauma that injures large arteries and causes a loss of blood flow. For instance, a large artery might be injured when a child has a neck injury.

In sum, the most likely causes of pediatric stroke are:

  • lack of oxygen during birth
  • a heart defect present at birth
  • blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia, a disease that destroys blood cells and blocks blood vessels
  • injury to an artery (a blood vessel that brings oxygen) in the brain
  • dehydration
  • genetic disorders like Moyamoya, a rare disease that affects arteries in the brain
  • an infection, such as meningitis  or chickenpox

Some problems that affect a mother during pregnancy can also cause a baby to have an ischemic stroke before or after birth. The most common examples include:

  • preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy that can cause swelling in the hands, feet, and legs)
  • premature rupture of the membranes (when a woman’s water breaks more than 24 hours before labor starts)
  • diabetes
  • infections
  • drug abuse
  • placenta problems that decrease the baby’s oxygen supply, such as placental abruption (when the placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus)

It is important for doctors treating pregnant women to be on the lookout for these disorders in order to prevent pediatric strokes before or after birth.

What Causes Hemorrhagic (Bleeding) Stroke in Children?

When a blood vessel on or in the brain ruptures, blood flows into brain areas where it’s not supposed to go. It may pool in brain tissues, resulting in a blood clot. Also, because the vessel is ruptured, blood isn’t transported where it should go. As a result, the brain is deprived of oxygen, and this may lead to permanent brain injury. Hemorrhagic strokes are most often caused by rupturing or weakened or malformed arteries known as arteriovenous malformations (AVMs).

The risk of hemorrhage is higher with certain illnesses such as hemophilia.  Hemophilia is a disorder where the blood does not properly clot.  Hemophilia is a leading cause of pediatric stroke.

Hemorrhagic strokes can be caused by:

  • a head injury that results in a broken blood vessel
  • arteriovenous malformation, a condition in which the blood vessels in the brain don’t connect properly
  • an aneurysm (weakness in an artery wall)
  • diseases that affect blood clotting, such as hemophilia

To avoid medical malpractice for a failure to diagnose or a failure to treat pediatric stroke,  doctors must understand, recognize, and address these risks.

Different Symptoms For Strokes in Children

Because people don’t often think about newborns and children having strokes, pediatric strokes often go unrecognized or are not treated properly. Another challenge with newborns is that they cannot communicate symptoms that are not readily visible.

The common stroke warning signs—FAST—used to identify stroke in adults can also be used to identify strokes in children.  

FAST acronym of Face Arms Speech Time can be used for pediatric stroke.

It is critical that children having a stroke get immediate medical treatment. Any delay in diagnosing or treating pediatric stroke may be medical malpractice.

But, there are some specific symptoms that you should look for in children depending on their age.

Signs of pediatric stroke in newborns and infants include:

  • Seizures
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Tendency to use only one side of their body

Signs of pediatric stroke in children and teens include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance or coordination

It is critical that pediatric strokes get immediately diagnosed and treated.  A delayed diagnosis of pediatric stroke or delayed treatment for pediatric stroke may cause permanent injuries or even death.

Diagnosing Stroke in Children

Sometimes stroke can be diagnosed based on a child’s signs and symptoms.  For example, if a childhood suddenly loses strength on one side of his body or has difficulty speaking, a stroke may be immediately suspected.  Other types of pediatric strokes may be more difficult to diagnose.

Strokes that occur before birth (perinatal strokes) and infant strokes can sometimes be hard to diagnose.  This is especially true if a child has no obvious signs or symptoms. In some cases, a stroke may be diagnosed as the cause of a child’s seizures or developmental delays only after other conditions have been ruled out. This might mean that a child will undergo several tests before the doctor even mentions the word “stroke.”

If a stroke is suspected, a doctor will probably need the child to undergo one or more of these medical tests to confirm the diagnosis of pediatric stroke:

  • Blood tests
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): a safe and painless test that uses magnets, radio waves, and computer technology to produce very good pictures of internal body parts, such as the brain
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): an MRI of specific arteries
  • magnetic resonance venography (MRV): an MRI of specific veins
  • Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT scan): a quick and painless test that produces pictures of bones and other body parts using X-rays and a computer
  • Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA): an X-ray of specific arteries
  • Cranial Ultrasound: high-frequency sound waves that bounce off organs and create a picture of the brain
  • Lumbar Puncture (a.k.a. spinal tap): a needle is injected into the lower back to remove and test cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

If a child has signs or symptoms of a stroke and a physician does not order the tests to diagnose and treat pediatric stroke, the doctor may have committed medical malpractice.  In such a case, the doctor may be responsible for any injuries the child suffered due to the delayed diagnosis of stroke.

Treatment for Strokes in Children

Children usually recover better from strokes than adults do because their brains are still growing. However, children can experience permanent complications from stroke, such as seizures, weakness, and vision problems.

Treatment for pediatric stroke depends on the specific cause. Some common stroke treatments used with adults are not appropriate for young children and infants. One of the best treatments for ischemic (dry) strokes for adults is tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator.  TPA is a blood thinner that dissolves blood clots.

TPA is rarely used for pediatric stroke.  Use of tPA for pediatric stroke is controversial and limited to clinical trials.  

Current treatments for pediatric stroke include:

  • Supportive care to maintain normal body temperature, proper hydration, and normal blood sugar levels
  • Controlling high blood pressure
  • Detecting and treating seizures with EEG monitoring and anticonvulsant medication
  • Managing intracranial pressure
  • Blood transfusions for children with sickle-cell disease
  • Antithrombotic therapy, which refers to medications used to prevent blood clots from forming or growing, is used in children but generally not infants
  • Surgery related to hemorrhagic stroke (and less commonly, ischemic stroke) is sometimes performed to relieve pressure on the brain

If someone you know someone has suffered a pediatric stroke – or any stroke – it is critical that you speak with a stroke lawyer as soon as possible to evaluate your options.

Young Stroke Survivors

Strokes in young people are becoming more common. Recent data shows that about 15% of the most common kind of stroke – ischemic or “dry” stroke – occur in young adults or adolescents. There was a 44% increase in the number of hospitalizations for young people due to stroke in the last decade. Many stroke survivors are not the elderly people we would typically expect. Rather, they are young people who are between the age of 15 and 35.

The family burdens and financial obligations caused by a stroke in a young person can be tremendous. In many instances they are far greater than when a stroke occurs in an older person. The reason that overall cost is greater for a young person is because they will likely need a lifetime of care, as opposed to just care at the end of their life. Also, when a stroke hits a younger person, they likely are in the workforce or would be in the workforce if they did not have the stroke. This means that they are financially worse off than if they had the stroke later in life.

Given these realities, lawsuits for stroke medical malpractice are frequently that much more important for child and adolescent stroke survivors.

Can I File A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for a Pediatric Stroke?

Yes. A lawsuit for an ischemic or “dry” stroke just is like any other medical condition. If you think that a doctor or hospital was negligent in diagnosing, treating, or preventing a stroke in an infant, a child, or an adolescent and it caused an injury, a medical malpractice or negligence lawsuit should be investigated. If you would like us to investigate your stroke medical malpractice lawsuit, you will need to act quickly. There are short time restrictions for filing a lawsuit for medical malpractice or negligence, including for a stroke involving an infant, a child, or an adolescent patient.

How do I Hire You to Be My Pediatric Stroke Malpractice Lawyer?

The first thing you should do is complete the contact information form, which will allow us to begin investigating your case. You can call us at 216-777-8856 and we will begin gathering the information needed to begin investigating your medical malpractice and negligence lawsuit related to a stroke in an infant, a child, or an adolescent.

Once we’ve investigated, we’ll candidly tell you what we think about what happened, whether the medical provider is to blame, and what we think about the strength of the case.

Which means when we do take on a case, our reputation tells the other side this is a serious case we believe in.

If for whatever reason we do not take on the case, and we think there is some merit to the case, we’ll try and help you find a lawyer who might take it on.

If you would like more information about us, you can visit us at Eadie Hill Trial Lawyers.

Michael Hill

Michael Hill

Trial Lawyer at Eadie Hill Trial Lawyers
Michael Hill is an accomplished trial lawyer focusing on representing individuals who have suffered life changing injuries due to stroke. While Michael resides in Cleveland, Ohio, he handles stroke medical malpractice cases throughout the United States.

Michael Hill has recorded several seven figure verdicts and settlements.Michael is a regular speaker for lawyers concerning litigation and trial practice.Michael is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 under 40, Top 10 Nursing Homes Lawyers, Top 25 Medical Malpractice Lawyers, Super Lawyers: Rising Star, and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

Michael Hill is a founder of Eadie Hill Trial Lawyers.
Michael Hill