When you hear of stroke, the first thing that comes to mind is that it occurs in elderly people.
However, what you may not know and may come as a surprise to you is that children also suffer from stroke, according to the Head of Department of Child Health of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Prof. Ebenezer Badoe.
He said although that was not an every day occurrence and the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital did not have accurate data on the prevalence rate, there were incidents of children who had suffered from stroke and were brought to the hospital.
In countries where proper data have been collected, he said, one out of 15,000 children or one to two per 100,000 children will suffer from stroke.
Prof. Badoe said stroke could occur in the first 30 days in the life of a child and that was known as neonatal stroke, adding that the other group was between one to 12 or 14 years.
He said stroke was a serious disease and there could be several rare causes of stroke in children. However, in Ghana, he pointed out that the most common cause of stroke in children was the sickle cell disease.
Prof. Badoe explained that in sickle cell patients, there was blood abnormality and there could also be blood vessel abnormality so the flow of blood through the vessels was affected.
He mentioned that a part of the brain was, therefore, deprived of blood which resulted in blood supply being cut off.
He further explained that a stroke was simply a sudden onset of an injury to the brain which led to an abnormal function of a body part within a short time - usually within 24 hours.
He said a child might have what was called focal neurological deficits which he explained as not being able to move parts of the body. For instance, a child who is well may suddenly not be able to move half of his or her body.
Prof. Badoe added that this might be accompanied by headache, seizure, visual problems and inability to talk or walk, pointing out that when a child got all those symptoms within a short period, then that child had suffered from a stroke.
Another group of children who also suffer from stroke, he said, were those with heart diseases.
He also said sometimes because the blood vessels were abnormally arranged, they could throw a clot into the circulation and cause a blockage which could result in a stroke.
He said HIV also predisposed some children to stroke and so some children with HIV would show a stroke pattern.
Furthermore, he said a child who had had chicken pox was also at risk because the disease had an effect on the blood vessels.
Another important risk factor, Prof. Badoe mentioned was trauma, stressing that if a child had trauma in the mouth or around the neck, it might damage one of the major blood vessels and result in a stroke.
For instance, he said, sometimes a person might have fallen down about a week earlier and did nothing about it which could suddenly develop into a stroke as result of a trauma to the blood vessels.
Due to the fact that the occurrence of a stroke is very sudden, Prof. Badoe advised parents to look out for the risk factors and register with the specialised clinics for monitoring of the disease and some specialised tests for the necessary interventions to be carried out.
He said a good diet was also very important as it helped everybody and advised parents to give children fruits and vegetables.
He said if stroke was not detected early and managed properly, it could lead to considerable ill health and death.
“Stroke can leave a child with significant disability.
If you cannot move part of your body, then it is a big issue,” he said.